So maybe I have not been completely transparent on this blog.

Although I write often about online community management, Yammer, and enterprise social networking, the simple truth is I have not managed a Yammer network for quite some time now.

Though I did do a lot of Yammer and community management work for well over five years, I had recently been assigned new projects at work, and responsibility for our Yammer networks was given to another team at my organization.

It was a change that I welcomed. I enjoyed my community management work very much, but I was ready for change and for new challenges. The team that was taking over the network was smart, engaged and ready to go. I had confidence they would do a great job, and they did. Under their leadership, our Yammer network grew by over 25%. The Tent (the name for our Yammer network) remained a place where information and expertise was shared. People still connected with each other, and using The Tent our users could find help, support and community they could not find anywhere else.

And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and our organization had to make some very difficult decisions very quickly. We re-organized. Priorities changed. We had to adjust to being a smaller organization, and lots of people found themselves with more responsibilities as a result. Along with the new projects I had been assigned a couple of years ago, I was now being asked to once again manage The Tent.

Just as I welcomed the change which moved responsibility for The Tent to my colleagues, I welcomed the change which brought management of The Tent back to my portfolio. I was sorry about the reasons for the change, but returning to the work of online community management work feels at once comfortable and challenging. I am ready to go.

I watched activity in our online Yammer network with great interest while I was working on other things. When I started the Yammer network, we had absolutely zero users, and now we have almost 15,000 users. I worked hard to bring Yammer to my organization, and I worked hard to help the Yammer network flourish. I liked managing Yammer. I was passionate about making Yammer a place where community and expertise could easily be found.

Now that another team was managing the Yammer network, and I was left to watch the activity from the sideline. Likely, you’ve been in a similar position. You have worked so hard on something, and now it is in the care of someone else. That which you created and cultivated, that which you worked so hard to sustain is now being taken care of by someone else. Ouch. At times, it was difficult to watch.

And yes, the new team cared deeply for the community they were managing, but they managed it differently than I did, as they should have. They brought their own expertise and approach to the work. Sometimes I agreed with their approach, other times I didn’t. But on the sidelines I stayed. I kept my opinions to myself. I didn’t say a word, but I learned a lot.

Now that I am returning to the world of online community engagement, I believe I have an even keener sense of what it takes to make an online community succeed. Likely, I have visited these issues before in this blog, but now I have the opportunity to consider them through a new lens.

The more the moderator enjoys the work of managing the online community, the more the users will enjoy using the online community. Welcome new users with joy and enthusiasm, celebrate and recognize good information, and help people find answers to their questions. Share a funny GIF file from time to time, start a conversation about pets, and take a poll about something completely unrelated to work. Have fun, engage your users.

The CEO of your organization likely does not do all the work of the organization by herself. She would not have time to do all the work herself, and she likely is not qualified to do all the work. It is a similar situation for online community.

Adopting a distributed model of oversight and moderation will result in more people involved. You know the people you know, but now that you have asked someone else to help moderate the space, he will involve the people he knows. Your colleague will tag different people, will post in different ways, and will extend the reach of your online space in ways you just could not do by yourself.

STEP 3: PLAN THE WORK. As I have written about before on this blog, an online community space is not The Field of Dreams, and users will not come to the space just because you have built it. The space needs to be carefully planned. Don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen. Don’t wait for people to post, encourage them to post. Don’t wait for people to find the information being shared, compel them to find it.

I look forward to the adventure and challenge of managing an online community space. I have learned a lot by watching. It’s time to get back to work!

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