Applying an internal forums system in the company culture - thoughts

Long gone are the days where, as children, we used to tie a string to two boxes and shout messages at each other. Communication for some of us has changed from phones with a round dial to smartphones in a decade.

Having worked in several places with a mobile based solution for groups of teams and dev departments forum/chat system as well as  a couple of places with an internal forum/social media system in place, I have seen more often than not that the adoption rate of such a system is diverse. Some like it, some not and some participate on a whim. And in some places it is obligatory.

However what happens when you find yourself accustomed to such a system and arrive at a place where there was none, and one is being applied. How does an organization make the shift from coffee machine pow wows to an internal forum/social/chat board. TL;DR Success of such a forum depends on... oh quite a few factors

It is not the medium, it is the content

This is not a post on the different solutions out there. I am sure that a quick search on your favorite engine will produce quite a few results. Neither do I disdain from mobile (as in id by phone number) based group chat solutions. They serve their purpose but do not fit a company wide approach. 

What sort of content does a company expect to be presented and discussed upon in such a forum? The answer is "it depends". It depends on the company culture and philosophy, it depends on the ultimate purpose of management, it depends on the content makers.

Content makers

Content makers are the people in a company who enjoy sharing articles, opinions or even blog. It is useful to know who might these people be and involve them early in the process. These are the people who will create an initial hype, but also keep the fire burning. Down the road more employees will be involved. More but not all. Some may even mute the system or never log in. Again depending on the company and the company culture, this may or may not be OK. Regardless it will never be a 100% involvement. We may be social animals but some are less than others. 

A word to content makers: Do not overdo it. Less in high quality is more than a lot in low quality. 

Content

Encourage content makers, the ones you new about before hand and the ones emerging down the road. Make focused channels on topics of general interest. Set boundaries, monitor and enforce them. Delete and discourage low quality content. Forbid politics, strike out ethnic and religious remarks (a company may be many things but by no means is it a democracy) and make sure the language is clean. Allow for healthy jokes and banter. Make public announcements in the system as well as by email. Make people own the content they post. And give it time.

Sometimes a contest may be announced to make people involved. This won't last much. Coffee machine pow wows discussing content from the forum, however, will.

And with that in mind I am off to pour content in such a system. ;)  



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