Daily Archives: March 29, 2013

Book Review: Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World

Humanize - Notter and Grant“Humanize”: this word is scattered throughout the digital landscape.  So, quite appropriately, I selected “Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World” by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant as the subject of my mid-term book review.  Notter and Grant, while having different backgrounds (he is a leadership, conflict, and diversity speaker and consultant; she is a blogger and co-founder and Chief Social Media Strategist at SocialFish), both have experience with association management, the practice of governing and leading a membership comprised of dues-paying members.  This was my primary reason for my interest in “Humanize,” as nearly all of my volunteer commitments are with dues-paying and volunteer-based organizations.  That, plus the word itself has an aspirational quality for any future community or social media management professional.

“Humanize” provides a detailed explanation of the key characteristics of a human organization along with actionable steps to how the reader can move his or her for- or non-profit organization toward effective practice of those attributes.  The chapters in “Humanize” are aggregated into sections.

  • Humanize - Notter and GrantThe beginning of the book (chapters one through four) provides a 30,000 foot look at the social media revolution.  This section goes on to discuss the natural tension between the forward progress of social media and lack of change within many organizations, while also identifying three critical factors in that tension: organizational culture, internal process, and individual behavior.
  • The “meat” of the book (chapters five through nine) sees Notter and Grant identify four key elements of being human: open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous.  They purposefully select a trellis as a basis for representing an organization’s culture, its process, and its behavior, stating that these elements together “support the cultivation of more powerful organizations – ones that will thrive in a social world.”
Culture Process Behavior
Open Decentralization Systems Thinking Ownership
Authentic Transparency Truth Authenticity
Generative Inclusion Collaboration Relationship Building
Courageous Learning Experimentation Personal Development

The Trellis

Humanize - Notter and GrantEach of these four elements is addressed one-by-one.  Challenges of and opportunities for introducing each into an organization are discussed, and each chapter concludes with a worksheet designed to assess an organization’s current position and identify future work in building a particular characteristic.  (The worksheets, shown at right, can be downloaded at the Humanize website.)  Each chapter ends with a closing designed to prompt action: “Ultimately, the changes we advise in this book are necessary, they are possible, and they start with you.  Don’t wait for permission or the perfect timing.  Are you ready?  Go.”

Gardening in Your Community

I would not hesitate to recommend “Humanize” to any aspiring or practicing community or social media manager.  Notter and Grant strike a good balance between heft and levity.  “Humanize” is weighty yet readable; their writing style is clear and the text is infused with a sense of humor and wit.

Just as #CmgrChat member @doctorcrowe indicated in his review in the @TheCMGR Reading List, Humanize is not a book about how to implement a community management or social media program.  Rather, Humanize is a book that breaks down important organizational factors that, when correctly aligned, will facilitate the successful implementation of such a program.  For example, in chapter six, “How To Be Open,” Notter and Grant emphasize the need to understand an organization’s culture on all levels – its walk, its talk, and its thought – before beginning to transform it from a hierarchical centralized culture to an inclusive decentralized one.

As Notter and Grant say on page 114 as they prepare to kick off chapter 6, “Whatever you do, do something.”

I’m going; will you?

“Book Review: Get Bold”


Why should a Social Business have a Community Manager?

Let’s face it.  The concept of a Social Business may be overwhelming to organizations that are still using traditional business practices.  After all, what does Social Business even mean?   Is it opening up a Facebook page or Twitter account?    Maybe…

Organizations may use social networks as part of their plan of action, but being a Social Business is so much more!

What is a Social Business? 

If you ask Sandy Carter, author of the book, Get Bold, she would explain that a Social Business does not just use social media as a marketing tool, but integrates and embeds social practices throughout the entire organization.  It is about focusing on relationships with their clients, partners, citizens, and employees by engaging new technologies and platforms that powerfully and easily connect in trusted and experiential ways.

As the Vice President and Social Business Evangelist for IBM, Sandy has the background and experience to help guide her readers.  In the book, she provides a complete Social Business framework she calls AGENDA.

A.  Align organizational goals and culture

G.  Gain Social Trust

E.  Engage Through Experiences

N.  Network Your Business Processes

D.  Design for Reputation and Risk Management

A.  Analyze Your Data

The Community Manager’s role in AGENDA

A. Align organizational goals and culture

Sandy suggests that companies consider launching internally first, as this will provide employees with a practice ground in which to learn how to be effective with social tools. By virtue of doing what they do best, a Community Manager will help to foster the internal communication and collaboration, especially in larger businesses where multiple locations exist.

G. Gain Social Trust

Sandy feels that there are three components necessary to develop social trust:

  • Expertise and thought leadership–  A good Community Manager knows her audience and is always working to provide thoughtful content for her community.
  • Responsiveness and consistency-  A good Community Manager is there to respond to her community’s needs and takes the time to listen and understand
  • Transparency and open conversation-  A good Community Managers is continually looking for ways to foster open conversations within her community.

E. Engage Through Experiences

Community Managers are engagement gurus.   It is their job to realize the value of participation and provide leadership, direction, and purpose to their communities.

N. Network Your Business Processes     

Community Managers have the ability to take the lead in supporting both internal and external communities.  Their direct influence will not only help the organization achieve a more fluid social transition, but also will enable faster knowledge sharing and improved collaboration.

D. Design for Reputation and Risk Management

Community Managers are on the front line of their communities, whereby through the sheer act of just listening, they are given the ideal opportunity to counter negative opinion and help shape reputation.

A. Analyze Your Data

Metrics give Community Managers the opportunity to better legitimize the hard work they perform and offer a way to measure the direct effect they have on all 6 work streams.

Get Bold is full of compelling evidence that supports the worth and importance of the Community Manager in the Social Business.  Sandy Carter sees the role of Community Manager as not only one of the fastest growing professions, but also a requirement of Social Business success.  I concur!!





Book Report: “Community: The Structure of Belonging”

Photo: Survival International via Fox News

Photo: Survival International via Fox News

Peter Block understands what constitutes community and what satisfies the human need for connectedness.

The best-selling author and consultant penned Community: The Structure of Belonging. In that book, he looks at how people want to be part of something larger than their own small circle of influence and join others in exchange of comment, the engagement of ideas, the melding of goals, and the vision of an interconnected and enlivened community.

While Block writes in terms of literal communities, his concepts are rock-solid for the kind that form and engage virtually. The ideas conveyed regarding neighborhoods, schools, civic organizations, workplaces, and governmental entities are just as valid when applied to the workings of and motivations of online communities, in my view.

Humans are hard-wired to want to interface in meaningful ways.

Oneida Community members via NY Times

Oneida Community members via NY Times

Block says we have a “need to create a structure of belonging,” emanating from “the isolated nature of our lives, our institutions, and our communities.

He cites the ways of American society as creating “gaps” that fuel a desire for connectedness. Today’s American life, with its western culture and individualistic nature; and the tendency of organizations and professionals to be more inward-looking in their perspectives these days, adds to that distancing.

With our neighborhoods, businesses, schools, social service organizations, churches, and government entities all operating in their own worlds, preoccupied with individual pursuits rather than collective ones, even “parallel effort added together does not make a community,” Block notes.

  • He laments that such separateness diminishes the talents of individuals as well as those of whole communities.
  • The resulting dearth of abilities and talents makes for situations where “there are too many people in our communities whose gifts remain on the margin,”Block says.
  • It is a situation that is as true for those who remain in their home communities in a disconnected state, as it is for groups who have been forced from their homes to live out their lives in displacement.
  • The lack of interface and fragmentation of communities, Block suggests, can create the lack of enthusiasm and action that is exhibited in issues communities face such as “low voter turnout, the struggle to retain volunteerism, and the large portion of the population who remain disengaged,” Block contends.

I can identify. 

Seattle Skyline/Spaceneedle.com

Seattle Skyline/Spaceneedle.com

Years ago, I moved cross country to a place where my husband and I knew no one else at all, and I experienced firsthand the feeling of displacement and the longing for connectedness and human need for engagement with my new community.

As humans, the state of a connected community comes naturally, it seems to me. Humans lived as tribal groups all over the world, and many peoples still do. We formed communities of our own to engage in like-mindedness and unified visions.

Photo: Alicia Moura/via CNN Money

Photo: Alicia Moura/via CNN Money

Even until recent generations, families lived together in multiple-generation households, providing an automatic sort of engagement and enlivenment to everyday living. (It’s a trend that may be experiencing a resurgence due to current economic times.)

It’s all about forming engagement and sustaining conversations.

While the first half of Block’s book dealt with identifying and characterizing the issue of disengaged communities, the second part is a playbook for how to remedy that. The author offers a selection of insights and tactics that can be used to re-engage community members and  restore and transform communities, as well as a wide selection of “doers” and resources who’ve been successful at that task.

@rhappes - Twitter

@rhappe – Twitter

“Connector” and founder of Community Roundtable Rachel Happe (@rachelhappe) put it well when she tweeted recently to CMGRClass guest expert author and blogger Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder):

“I don’t think real communities exist around products,

they exist around shared needs, locally or virtually #sbs2013.”

 So, I’d like to hear what you think about the ideas Block presents.

  • Is the rise of individual organizational pursuit diminishing our ability to collectively problem-solve for our communities?
  • Are online communities, and the resulting potential of community activism that can take place from those engagements, a solution to re-engaging and transforming our living styles today?


What About When the Customer is Wrong?

Call me a boat-rocker, but I don’t personally subscribe to the notion that the customer is always right. I happen to love customer service, it’s a topic I’m very passionate about and I’m always out to find shining examples of service done right. But I think it’s folly to go in thinking the customer’s needs are paramount – rather, I think it’s important to go in thinking that you’ll be interacting with a person who has needs, which may or may not align with your organization’s products, services, or mission. Sometimes, the person who gave you money, or is prepared to do so, is actually somebody else’s customer, and it’s your job to help them figure that out.

"We don't have that, but let me help you find somebody who does."

“We don’t have that, but let me help you find somebody who does.”

I’ve worked in a variety of service positions over the years, from a snowboard instructor, to a barista, to an IT helpdesk consultant, and a small handful of social media roles. My opinion years back, when I was teaching snowboarding, would have been that the customer needs to be fluffed up and treated like royalty, otherwise they won’t tip you. As a barista, I felt the same way. As an IT consultant, my opinion changed slightly, as there were no tips, and my customers were not charged for our services. These were people who simply needed my help to maintain their status quo, and while a minor network issue may take me two minutes to diagnose and fix, they may come to me belligerent, accusing us of running a sub-par organization. That position was draining, but I knew exactly what the perspective was on the customer side; I was the expert in this matter, not them, so they were dealing with a problem they had little to no capacity to fix, and thus I needed to be not only a mechanic, but an instructor. To help stem the tide of repeated problems that have quick fixes, I had to show our customers that really, they didn’t need to be our customers sometimes. A problem with your network can be as simple to fix as switching off the network switch under your desk, then switching it back on. A problem with your computer being slow can be fixed by restarting it, and freeing up some of the memory. These customers weren’t wrong to not know how to address their problems, but they were rather innocently wrong in that they couldn’t possibly handle the problem themselves.

This was an important lesson for me to learn – sometimes the customer isn’t right, and sometimes they don’t need to be anybody’s customer. Then, in spring 2011, I took a trip to New York City that I will never forget. I was there for Coffee Fest NYC, a coffee-and-tea industry event, but I also took the opportunity to hang out with some local baristas, most of whom I had never met before. One such barista, Sam Lewontin, was a revelation to talk to. He was absolutely passionate and outspoken about customer service in coffee, holding both customer happiness and product quality to high standards. However, he would be the first to tell you that sometimes a person walks into a café thinking they are your customer, when in fact they are somebody else’s, in the wrong place. As a coffee professional, and an ambassador to an industry, Sam felt that it was his job to make sure that person got something that satisfied them, even if it meant directing them to a café which serves a caramel macchiato – which cannot be found on his menu at Everyman Espresso. This, to me, was everything I felt about service, summed up beautifully.

This week, we read a short section in Olivier Blanchard’s book, Social Media ROI, all about customer service on social media. The reading started off with nine rules of online conflict resolution, the first of which was of course “The customer is always right.” Reading through the list (and the rest of the section), I agreed with everything Olivier wrote – be polite, apologize, an angry customer isn’t an enemy – with the exception of rule number 1. I don’t think this mindset is productive for everybody, because it can lead to an organization making unnecessary concessions for a single person, or even a small subset of people. I would personally be left more impressed by a service professional helping me solve my problem at somebody else’s business, rather than bending over backwards to make sure I gave them my money. The former demonstrates humility and respect, whereas the latter makes me wonder if my wallet is more valuable than my wants and needs.


And that’s what it’s all about – good old word of mouth.

It is always important to be polite as a professional in customer service, always treat that person with respect and humanity, but keep in mind that sometimes the customer isn’t right, and sometimes they are lost. Sometimes you have to do the right thing and help them understand that their business can be directed elsewhere. And who knows, they might be so impressed with the level of service they just received that they stick around to give you their money anyway.

Do you agree with my premise, or is the customer really always right?

What to Think About Before you Comment

Friends in Circle

Image courtesy of Savit Keawtavee FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever read a community post and wondered, “What was that person thinking?” or more likely “Why wasn’t that person thinking?” While the onus is often placed on the community manager to deal with all kinds of crude or thoughtless posts, maybe it’s time that we all helped improve the constructiveness of our community dialogue by thinking more before we “speak.” While I realize that I risk “preaching to the choir”, here are some filters that I personally attempt to put my messages through before sending them out.

Who can Hear my Message?

Recently, according to Forbes, two attendees at a tech conference conference were talking to each other using crude sexual innuendos. The person in front of them was offended, snapped a picture of them, and posted it on Twitter with their comments. Needless to say things only got worse from there. One key learning from this is that whether we’re speaking to the person next to us in public or posting to a private forum on the internet, we need to think about who might “overhear” our message, and realize that it may go beyond our intended audience. The more public and unknown the potential audience is, the more conservative we need to be when formulating our message. We also need to moderate our messages based on how much trust we have in the privacy controls of our internet provider, social media platform, and our fellow community members. Even if the technology platforms are completely “secure” and “roped off” there is always the chance that a community member could repeat what we have said elsewhere, so remember to “let the buyer beware”, because there is no guarantee of privacy on the internet.

What Community Standards do I need to live up to?

Even if we have chosen a community that has good privacy controls and feel comfortable relying upon these controls, there is still the need to learn and follow the standards of a particular community. The best way to do this is to listen for a while until we understand the tone of the community. We need to watch what the community manager allows or doesn’t allow and observe how the more esteemed members of the community conduct themselves. Too often “free speechers” will join a community and declare their right to loudly express their opinions. Yes, it’s a free country, and no one knows you’re really sitting at your computer in your pajamas, so you have this powerful feeling of anonymity, but please don’t post your personal right-wing/left-wing political manifesto every other day; please don’t bait and make personal attacks against your community arch-nemesis; and please do try to support your ideas with logical, well-thought out arguments instead of resorting to name calling. Just as some professional sport announcers have to practice in order to avoid swearing on air, we need to filter ourselves and practice living up to the standards set by our communities. Obviously, these may differ from community to community, which is why it’s important to listen and observe these standards before going overboard. Again, when in doubt, err on the side of conservatism, even if it means deleting some of the best lines from that colorful rebuttal you have written. And remember the admonition of your mother, “If you don’t have anything good to say”, don’t say anything at all”.

Does my Message Construct Match my Medium?

Maybe I’m showing my age on this one, but I still believe we need to choose the right medium for the message and construct the message in the format appropriate for the medium (and of course, the intended audience). To me there is a continuum of mediums whose proper use depends at least partially upon the formality or informality of the medium as well as the context of the message. It’s OK to use “u”, “2”, and “8” as words in text messages, but as we move up the food chain to more formal mediums (e.g. formal blogs, business emails, business community forms), we need to use our best formal language skills. Twitter and Facebook appear to be more informal on the surface, but business pages and business targeted communications using these mediums require more formalized encoding of our messages than firing off a text does. If we all put more time into thinking before we speak or hit “send/post”, the world could be a better place for all of our communities.

What filters do you put your messages through before submitting your posts? What filters would you like to see others put their posts through?