Farewell to the Catalyze Community

Goodbye Catalyze - It Was Great To Know You

The announcement from iRise yesterday today that the Catalyze Community was merging into the ModernAnalyst.com Community probably didn’t even register a blip on your radar.  But the announcement has more than a touch of melancholy for me as I was the founding community manager from the conception of the community in late 2006 through its growth to over 4,000 members in July 2008 and I want to give the the community a proper send-off.

Giving birth to and nurturing a community is not unlike the experience of raising children as I lived and breathed the Catalyze Community for almost 18 months.  I cut my teeth in community management, tried to set the standard in what professional B2B communities could be, and got started on my journey into social media through my efforts with the community.  I learned a great deal and had a chance to develop many friends in the community space including the team from Mzinga who provided the white label social media software that powered the site (a special thanks go out to Jim Storer, Derek Showerman, Aaron Strout, Isaac Hazard, Mark Wallace and Barry Libert).  I am sure I drove the Mzinga team a little bit crazy as I pushed the envelope to ‘mold’ their software into my idea of what a community experience should be.  I also enjoyed hosting the monthly webinars we held with a wide variety of knowledgeable experts.  Most of all, I discovered my “blogging” voice, and was able to experiment with the new and emerging (at the time) social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, and LinkedIn.

Of course, a lot of credit also goes out to iRise who was the founding sponsor of the Catalyze Community.  iRise’s funding of  the Catalyze Community and mission to keep it ‘commercial-free’ is what drew many of the members into the community.

The demise of the Catalyze didn’t come as a surprise to me as the community has floundered without a community manager for the past two years – and the site had become a virtual ghost town with very few visitors and sadly, very little fresh content.  Anyone who understands community building realizes that a site that is not actively managed with fresh content cannot be sustained and is destined for failure which ended up as one of my blog posts in January 2009.  In fact, I shared many of my experiences with the Catalyze Community in a number of blog posts.

The original goal of Catalyze was to unite and “catalyze” the disparate factions of  business analysts, usability professionals, user experience (UX) and information architects, designers, software developers and others who define, design and create software applications.  The ModernAnalyst Community is a very robust community and boasts over 38,000 members – and most of the Catalyze members will be nore than well-served by the merger.  I hope that the analytical “left-brain” analysts continue to reach out to the creative “right-brain” designers and usability professionals, and that they can continue to find a common ground in defining and designing better software.  I send best wishes to Adrian Marchis and the rest of his ModernAnalyst.com team on continuing the Catalyze tradition.

Catalyze Community Home Page from March 2008

ModernAnalyst.com

Walking the “Social Media Walk”

Forrester came out their latest research note on “Community Platforms” today.  Jeremiah Owyang, their lead analyst, wrote a very extensive summary of the report on his blog too.  At a minimum, you must check out the blog post and read all of the extensive comments that Jeremiah has received so far.

Jeremiah made some great points in his post and this quote sums it up best:

Used correctly, communities can impact the top and bottom line of company’s financials…and communities matter more now than ever – especially during a recession.

Based on their research, Forrester believes that most companies are looking for a solution partner or a vendor that can deliver on strategy, education, services, community management, analytics and support.  As such, 60% of their weighted criteria for the scoring was based on this feature.

The graphic below summarizes where Forrester places the leading vendors in the space.  Their top four vendors include Jive Software, Telligent, Mzinga and Pluck.  I am very familiar with Mzinga as I worked with them for nearly 2 years with the Catalyze community and am working with them again on a start-up professional community.

From Jeremiah Owyang's Blog

After reading Jeremiah’s post and thinking about other circumstances that occurred this week, it got me to thinking about community vendors and their own social media efforts.  In fact, I wrote a comment to Jeremiah’s post and here is an excerpt of my comments:

…I want my social media vendor to be active and visible in the social media space – which means that I want them to be blogging, twittering and participating in other social media activities.  I thought Mzinga used to do the best job of any of the leading vendors with their participation in social media. Their management profiles set the standard for how people need to be socially available in today’s Web 2.0 world and they proved it by including office and mobile phone numbers along with links to Twitter, Facebook, blogs and LinkedIn in their profiles.

Mzinga used to have some very active social media people listed as Thought Leaders on their website. However, people like Aaron Strout (@aaronstrout), Jim Storer (@jstorerj), Rachel Happe (@rhappe) and several others are no longer with Mzinga.  Mzinga now lists just 4 Thought Leaders on their website and other than CEO Barry Libert, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to their leadership and activity.

Looking at the other leading vendors, they do not appear to be very active either. Telligent’s CEO Rob Howard has a blog, but his Twitter traffic is pretty minor. The positive is that Telligent does have a number of blogs linked to their website, which I do view as a positive. Jive has a blog on their website and their CEO David Hersch has written some posts, but it hasn’t been updated since November.

So my question is, can a social media company really be a leader when they don’t have any social media leaders or when their social media efforts come across as fairly weak?

Don’t social media companies have to walk the ’social media walk’?

So, is your social media vendor ‘walking the walk’ or just talking the talk?

[1/10/09 update – the Forrester report is available from the Telligent website. The download requires registration.]

What’s Your Social Software Strategy?

An article by Tony Byrne of CMSWatch in Enterprise Social Software in KMWorld magazine last week got me thinking about the wide array of social software tools and how these tools can be used to create a social community offering.

Tony provided a very good overview of the social software landscape and identified the major categories in the social software marketplace.  Tony also identified 11 different implementation strategy scenarios for social software broken into Internal and External groupings, and he acknowledged in practice there will be variants or hybrids of these scenarios.

Here is a listing of his scenarios:

Internal communities:

  • Project collaboration
  • Enterprise collaboration
  • Enterprise discussion
  • Information organization and filtering
  • Knowledgebase management
  • Communities of practice
  • Enterprise networking

External scenarios:

  • Branded customer communities
  • Customer/reader interaction
  • Partner collaboration
  • Professional networking

Another way for looking at the social software landscape has been offered by the Forrester social media analysts in their Groundswell blog and book.  Their categories for communities are based on advancing organizational or corporate goals and include:

  • Listening (research)
  • Talking (marketing)
  • Energizing (sales)
  • Supporting (customer support)
  • Embracing (product development)
  • Managing (internal or employee applications)
  • Social impact (pro-social non-commercial activity)

I understand where Forrester is coming from, but Tony’s categorizations make a lot more sense to me.  The Forrester approach seems to force communities into neat little packages and ignores the reality of hybrid communities.

For example, the Catalyze community that I founded for business analysts and usability professionals was definitely a hybrid.  At the top level, it was a professional networking and knowledge sharing community with an embedded branded customer community that provided customer support, the latest product information via tips and tricks, and a ‘suggestion box’ for future product enhancements.  In this case, it is very difficult to fit this ‘square’ community into one of the Forrester ’round’ categories.

Or maybe, the best way to approach community strategy would be a combination of the two approaches – and hopefully, I’ve given you a place to start.

In any case, it is critical to identify and document your community strategy and goals upfront before selecting your social software tools.

Adding A LinkedIn Group To Your Community

If you are managing a community, especially a B2B or professional community, you need to make your community friendly and available to LinkedIn members.  LinkedIn is becoming the de facto social networking site where people maintain their online ‘resume’ and having a LinkedIn Group is a community best practice.

Adding and maintaining a LinkedIn Group is pretty simple and low maintenance.  Plus, LinkedIn Groups are a great way to make your communities “stickier”.  If you can get someone to join the community and your LinkedIn Group, then it is highly likely that this is a member who really supports you community and will be around for the long haul.  Members can also use the group feature to connect with other LinkedIn members who are not in their network.  In that way, the group ‘badge’ acts as a pre-qualification for vouching for a contact.  Since the LinkedIn Group is listed in the Group Director, it is also a great way to drive additional traffic to the community website.

During the 18 months I managed the Catalyze community, about 1/3rd of our community members also joined the LinkedIn Group.  I don’t know if this is above or below average, but I was pleased with that level of commitment and popularity.

How to get started with LinkedIn Groups:

  1. Go to LinkedIn Create a Group page
  2. Upload a large (100×50 pixel) and small (60×30 pixel) logo — This is probably the hardest part of creating a group as you have to scale your community logo to these exact width specifications.  I use SnagIt to create JPGs which I would highly recommend if you are doing this on your own.
  3. Fill out the group information
  4. Wait for confirmation that your group is active

And here is how the LinkedIn Groups will appear in your profile:

LinkedIn Group Listing

LinkedIn Group Listing

When your group is activated (it takes a couple of days to get approved), you get a group URL that you can use to direct members to so they can add the group to their individual profile.

You should also include the link on the About page of your community.  I also included the link in my bi-weekly email updates.

I set up my LinkedIn Group to require me to manually approve all members which allowed me to make sure that LinkedIn members who were not affiliated with my community were included.  I found that there are a lot of recruitors and LinkdIn badge collectors who would try to hone in on our community group.  Checking and approving members took me about 5-10 minutes several times per week.

With LinkedIn Groups, a list of all members and their emails is also available for download to the person with adminstrator or manager rights.  You could use this list to supplement your community email marketing efforts or provide the LinkedIn members with special offers.

I am interested in your experiences with LinkedIn Groups.  Add a comment below about how LinkedIn Groups is working for you.