Best Practices of Building a Virtual Community

What Makes a Social Media Community an Online Internet Community?

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What Makes a Social Media Community an Online Internet Community?

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Best Practices of Building a Virtual Community

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Helping SHRM Build Their Internet Communtiy

Earlier today I arrived in Washington D.C. to speak as well as take part in a task force for the Society for Human Resource Manager and their professional social media community platform, SHRM Connect The SHRM  social community task force includes approximately 15 professionals who are SHRM members as well as a handful of non-members from other professional associations. Our task is centered around improving the social media members only platform, SHRM Connect.

I was invited to participate in the conversation about building a better online community for SHRM and I am happy to do so. I remember those days long ago where I spent many an unproductive hour chatting on HR Talk answering and asking human resource questions.  And look at me now.  I went from a member of an online community to this: I make a living blogging, tweeting, and facebooking all about human resources.  Go figure.

What Exactly is an Online Community?

As I am preparing for the taskforce, I wondered what your thoughts are on social media community best practices.  What makes a community worth engaging online?  How do and can professional associations such as SHRM motivate its community to engage at SHRM connect engaging others, posting comments, and blog posts.  What makes a community special?

Comments, questions, emails are encouraged.  I want to hear from you and will happily send your suggestions to the big cheese at the Society for Human Resource Manager.

How to Build a Virtual Community : Best Practices

While I wait for your thoughts, here are a few of mine on how to build an online community that works:

  • Any Online Community must be Member Driven: Communities succeed because of the members of the community not the managing organization.  Members must be passionate to participate and spread the message.  Failing to do so isn’t a community.  It’s a one way conversation.
  • Create a Free Onlien Community: Communities don’t cost.  Twitter is free and so is Brazen Careerist where I’m happily a member of their community.  They provide content, time, and encourage engagement at no cost to the individual member.  There have been success with paid communities.  One that comes to mind is Third Tribe which is a paid online marketing community.
  • Your Community Website Must be Easy to Navigate:I like things easy.  I have a short attention span.  I’m also very busy and I’m guessing that most other HR professionals are the same way.  While my work is very different, our days are filled with deadlines, to do’s and conference calls.  I don’t have time to learn how navigate an online social network.  It’s hard enough for me to remember how to access the company’s resource portal and intranet.
  • Have a Fun Internet Community. HR sadly is not all rainbows and sunshine.  We do hard and sometimes unpleasant work.  Some days are better than others, but when I need support or just an escape I look to my online network to take me away.  That means letting your hair down, being a little rowdy, still professional, but having fun.  Afterall, HR professionals are people too.

So what did I miss when it comes to building an effective and real conline community?  What attributes, suggestions, or best practices do you have for SHRM as we develop our vitural community and improve social networking?  And how can communities outside of SHRM improve their social networking platforms?  What do you want to see and what do you not want to see when you engage with social communities online?

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  1. I have talked to a number of the folks (and it is a great group) so the group should be able to help Curtis and SHRM.

    If they-SHRM are going to make “Connect” work I think it needs to integrate with other platforms, i.e. tweetdeck, hootsuite, seesmic and such. Even though it is proprietary you need usernames and PWs to get in and out.

    Also if it is going to charge ahead – connect- needs a gimmick. I don’t know what that is but something COMPELLING, that you can on get on Connect and ONLY on connect.

    I am sure you all will do some great brainstorming and come out with some fantastic ideas!

    Go forth and conquer!

  2. Jessica-
    I think what makes a successful Social Media Community is COLLABORATION. If everyone worked more together in the sharing of ideas, best practices, and problem solving, things would run more smoothly. Because there is not a “one size, fits all solution, people need to think outside the box a little more. I really think SHRM needs to reach out to the social media community much more with an open mind at the ready.
    Those are my thoughts. Good luck!

  3. One thing that keeps me engaged in social media is the opportunities that I would miss without it. There are many conferences, webcasts, and other training and networking events that I would not have known about if it weren’t for Twitter or Facebook getting the word out. I think it is important to give people timely and useful information and resources with any social media source if you want people to come back to it time and time again.

    1. Absolutely, Lisa! I agree with you and I mentioned this to my table last night. Recruitfest is one example of a conference that offered their sessions at no cost available via livestream. They had an amazing amount of response with people from every country tuning in across the world (which is amazing). Recruitfest still had hundreds of individuals who attended the conference and traveled to Boston to attend even those the conference was available at no cost via the internet.


  4. Members need to be able to connect with others in their local chapters as well as their state. They should be able to list their associations and affiliations to enable this. Members should also be able to add their own social media to their profiles, list their skills, etc. This piece should be a resource for all chapter members whether a SHRM member or not; this exposure could actually increase SHRM membership. Then, the next level beyond that, if persons wanted to connect with other professionals across the country, they would need to join SHRM. Value would be enhanced on all levels. Beyond that, it could be possible for chapters to utilize this as their website; this would help small chapters; large chapters and state councils could link it in with their websites. Something like this is needed. OKHR wants to do this but if SHRM enhances their medium, we can just tap into that. 🙂

    1. Laura,

      Thanks for the comment. I agree that SHRM Connect needs to offer a special place for local chapters and state council’s to connect with at large members. SHRM Connect could be a great way for state councils and chapters to engage local individuals getting them involved and bringing them into the fold.


  5. It’s really important to understand that, even in the very best communities, the ration of participants to lurkers is about 1/12. It’s been like that since the very beginning of online community. The people who choose to participate put real value into the community and deserve real rewards and attention. When you are thinking about how to make community work, you’re really talking about three constituencies: the people who own or manage the operation, the visible participants and the watchers. All three groups need to have clear benefits from the distinct contributions that they make. You might want to spend some time with Maren Hogan who is one of the industry’s particularly great managers of community. She understands the elements of curation and networking that reward the participants so that the other two constituencies can get what they need.

  6. I have worked very closely with HR and Recruiting Professionals for many years now. When I first started in a this crazy biz I now call home, there was NO cross-communication among these professionals, no assistance. We kept “secret” the tricks we had learned – the ones that worked well, the ones that didn’t work at all and there was a certain pride separator. There was no desire to assist others for if they failed, more biz for me. Not the best business model and certainly not an example of the Golden Rule.

    The openness, the frank conversations, and the *buzz word warning* transparency that social networking naturally leans toward has been very beneficial for me – someone who has worked in-house, out-house, and down the road. When we share points of pain, when we share disclose failures, when we beam about successes – we all win. The competition is defined. One thing that Jerry Albright, an amazing recruiter out of Indiana always says to himself is, “Why would you want to hire me? What makes me different?”

    With an online community, trust builds – people want to do business with people they know, people they like. I am far more likely to refer business to someone I have established a relationship with through an online community – where I see their contribution daily or weekly – than I am to someone just down the street whom I have never met.

    The thing is, I have MET the members of my community. They walk past my “new front porch” every day. I know their likes, their disappointments and what their business focus is because they have taken down the walls and I have reached over and shaken their hand. For those who truly benefit from this type of participation, it isn’t about slacking off, it’s about touching in one more way, learning one more thing, sharing one more thing, communal complaining, being flexible and unafraid to implement change.

    How we communicate has changed and thus how we do business will forever be altered, It isn’t going away. It isn’t going back to the way it was. We are now a global community. Your problem, your issue is my problem, my issue and vice versa.

    I care about the communities in which I participate. “Care” has been infected how we work. And it isn’t a bad thing.

    1. Thanks Rayanne! Social media is the new front porch and I agree with you that people do business with people they know.

      It was great spending time with you last week at SXSW. Miss our conversations and morning tea already.


  7. It will be of value IF all levels of HR professionals participate. If the ratio is 1/12 – particpants vs lurkers – – it is even more important that senior level/VP/Corporate Board HR professionals participate as well.

    It will be a steep (and fast) learning curve for many. But transparency is here – – it has arrived – – and you can’t put a lid on it. It is a good thing.

    1. Thanks Kay. This is something I will make sure to mention. We need activity and involvement from all levels of HR within the organization. It makes no sense if the active members are only young professionals. There is no one with experience to share their ideas and past situations with the new professionals. Without a representation across experience levels, we are walking blind.


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