TAPPI Paper University
Last week, I met with the Technical Association of the Paper and Pulp Industry (TAPPI) to help them start setting up a private social network. I especially enjoy these strategy design meetings because I love learning about different organizations. In just one hour, I am able to hear about their industry, their culture, and their collaboration needs. And who knew there was so much to learn about paper? There’s even a Paper University! It’s great fun! And, it reinforces how important the strategy design process is. Having a strategy will increase user adoption and save an organization time by providing a targeted focus. I have refined the process into the following steps:

Define audience

TAPPI is a large organization whose members are highly technical and spread throughout 66 countries. They have between 300 and 500 groups that potentially need to communicate and collaborate with each other. From operators to executives, one of the organization’s challenges is to engage the next generation of users while making the community useful for as many members as possible.

Define success for members and organization

For TAPPI’s members, the community will be a place to collaborate together online as well as a place go for quick answers to questions. The community gives TAPPI the ability to increase communication amongst their membership and better engage their next generation of users.

Choose area of focus

Given the objectives for success, we decided that the best areas of focus for the first 3-6 months were to create collaborative groups and to set up listservs. This allows TAPPI’s membership to start organizing themselves into online workgroups with an efficient communication system.

Gather team

Once we knew where to focus our efforts, we brainstormed a list of people that could help with the initial setup: thought leaders, writing enthusiasts, and members comfortable with technology. These initial users will not only add useful content to the community, they will also help champion its value to other members.

During our brainstorm, an important group of people came to light: older members going into retirement who want to share their experience and knowledge. Online communities are a great way to record institutional knowledge while providing a less experienced generation with resources of value!

Define deadlines

Of course, creating a strategy can’t be done in an hour, but, by the end of the meeting, we already had clarity on where to focus, who to talk to, and deadlines to strive for.

I encourage new and exisiting communities to meet regularly and review your engagement strategy, discuss progress, and brainstorm ideas for providing value to your members. And of course, please contact me if your organization would like help designing or re-evaluating a strategy for your online community.

It’s always exciting to watch a new community get started. Welcome TAPPI! I look forward to watching your community grow and thrive.