Social Analytics in Internal Communities

5 minute read
Rob Howard avatar

An organization’s employees collaborate every day. How can you capture that information and transform it into knowledge that the broader organization can use? The most important aspect of collaboration is the ability to run analysis over the data to draw important insights and use it again in the future.

Finding the Important Information

The problem today is not digitization of content, but identifying important information and knowledge critical to solving a particular problem. Internal communities are a veritable goldmine of information and knowledge, especially when integrated in with document-centric platforms like SharePoint and unstructured data like email.

However, organizations are quickly finding that social tools and technologies by themselves do not necessarily abate the problem of finding the information; rather, business are looking more closely at business intelligence tools that can mine internal communities.

Leading organizations understand that there truly is an ‘economic value of knowledge’ (as first stated by Peter Drucker in the 1970s). Whereas today’s organization gains market share through great products and services, tomorrow’s organization will also be defined by how well it can execute and react based on the information available. With the right analytics tools, you can gain insight from this vast, and previously untapped, knowledge source.

How Information is Consumed

Information consumption tends to fall into four categories:

  • Required -- Information that is required reading, like a human resources handbook
  • Recommended -- Information that is passed from one person to another, i.e. sending a document to someone through email
  • Retrieved -- Information found through use of enterprise search tools such as Microsoft FAST
  • Relevant -- Information that is pushed based on previous related articles of information, often by software that is intelligently making recommendations

Know Your Users

Once you understand how people consume information, which you can study through the use of analytics tools, you then need to turn your attention to your users. Whereas document management platforms tend to emphasize documents and files and being the central concept, social platforms tend to emphasize people. This builds upon the notion that people tend to rely on their peers for recommendations.

Research has shown that online communities are populated by a range of different kinds of users who play different roles. The most successful community attracts and retains the right balance of users, which differs based upon the community type since not all are the same. And what is often overlooked is that typically the majority of users are seekers -- those looking to find the information they need to solve the problem they have at hand.

Understanding the roles of people seeking information is what has enabled organizations such as Dell and Microsoft to build widely successful customer communities that enable the customer to self-service their needs. Should you treat your internal customers, employees, any differently?

Learning Opportunities

Find Your Influencers

In fact, the users themselves are great sources of knowledge. Influential users within your community can be readily identified. You may, in fact, be surprised by who are your most influential users. As they engage in the community they leave a valuable data trail that you can capture and analyze to improve corporate knowledge.An influencer isn’t necessarily your CEO, but could be someone within the organization that helps connect other people to the resources and information they need to accomplish their job, a concept popularized by Malcolm Gladwell. You are able to proactively identify the people that have the most meaningful impact in your community.

But Have the Right Balance of User Types

Although influencers are unquestionably the most valuable people in your community, in order to achieve and sustain vibrancy in your online community, a combination of different user types is required. The right balance of user types -- seekers, influencers, askers, connectors, answerers, originators, commenters and moderators -- depends on your community. It is important to understand each user type, so that you can leverage their respective strengths and preferences in terms of how they can contribute content and interact with others in your online community.

Communities vary in terms of their size, activity, connection and intended purpose. Internally-focused employee communities have limited memberships and stable populations. One measure of your community is the mix of user types who have settled into it. By measuring each employee’s behavior, you can watch a community change over time, identify key contributors and guide your communities toward established goals.

Measure and Apply That Knowledge

As you begin to further understand the needs of your employees through a community, you can also begin applying the knowledge gained through analytics to transform how your community is represented. Measurement is a critical part of any online community. In order to be successful, organizations must drill deep and mine data.

By layering web analytics and engagement analytics, organizations can gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of their employees and their brand. But it is only by applying the metrics and knowledge gained through analytics that you can discover the economic value of knowledge.

About the author

Rob Howard

Rob Howard is the founder and chief technology officer of Zimbra, Inc. (formerly Telligent), and is the visionary behind the company’s product development and oversees the technology roadmap. In July 2013, Telligent acquired Zimbra from VMware.