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5 Tips for Creating a Community Playbook


Developing and implementing a community playbook is an advanced step in the process of evolving a community. Playbook documents are a living record of the community manager’s vision and, combined with training, are the best way to empower and guide those involved in social listening and engagement within the organization. While each organization’s culture and needs are different, when it comes to how community playbooks are structured, there are key success strategies that are common to all.

Veteran community manager Lauren Vargas has built community playbooks for Radian6, the Department of Defense, and Aetna. She conducted a session on creating community playbooks for The Community Roundtable, and today we share with you five considerations from that session to help you build successful community playbooks. These tips will help your community playbook be embraced by employees, make sure it reflects the culture of your organization and is flexible enough to adapt to the pace of change on the web.

1. Build your strategy and playbook before choosing a social listening and/or community platform.

When choosing a social listening/engagement tool or platform, it is critical that your playbook and strategy be in placebefore selecting a tool. This helps insure that the platform’s capabilities can support the types of actions, filters, and business goals laid out in the playbook. The playbook should inform the choice of platform, not the other way around. If the tool or platform is selected first, its’ capability limitations will inevitably influence your strategies and how you prioritize different interactions to reflect what is possible with the tool.

Pro Tip: Don’t worry if you’ve already got a platform up and running. In an ideal world the playbook comes first, but that isn’t feasible for many early-adopting organizations. Focus on building a playbook that works with your current platform and leave room for changes/edits if a platform switch occurs.

2. Understand that the playbook is meant to be an organic document.

Part of a community manager’s job is to stay on top of the changing tools, platforms and etiquette in the social space, but also changes in company policies, products and business goals. The community playbook needs to be a chameleon-like document, which retains the same body, but changes color to reflect shifts in the internal and external environment. A good rule of thumb is that once you publish your playbook, about 75% of it will be “evergreen” with the other 25% needing to be updated periodically.

3. Ensure that the playbook structure has flexibility.

Regardless of whether or not your organization is operating in a regulated environment, the playbook is not meant to be a command and control document. Rather, view it as a set of guardrails for online interactions. If people follow the playbook strictly to the letter, the organization’s interactions will tend to come off as robotic, which is should not be your desired state.

The playbook’s purpose is to empower and provide protection and direction versus being a rigid and inflexible set of commandments. Each department may need to have their own unique voice online. Two different groups within the same organization can tell a story in different ways. Good playbooks account for the nuance and differences of different scenarios/departments.

4. Make your playbook as visual as possible.

Because community playbooks need to incorporate a lot of information, it is essential that they be as visual as possible, so that (particularly in the beginning), people can grasp the high level best practices quickly (i.e. “if this happens, do this”) and then consume the details in their own time as they become more familiar with their role. Creating a playbook in PowerPoint (or a similar tool) allows you to build out these visual workflows, as well as keep pace with the changes you need to make as time goes on.

5. Ensure that the playbook structure complements existing policies.

Community playbooks don’t exist in a vacuum; each organization has its own existing policies and guidelines and the playbook must harmonize with and compliment them, not supersede them. Reference your organization’s policies, code of conduct, privacy policy, etc. as appropriate. During the process of mapping these conversations and workflows, various questions will arise, bringing policies into play. For example, a hot issue right now is record retention, especially in regulated environments. Identify these issues and ask questions like:

  • Should these conversations be archived? If so, how? Where?
  • How should the social data be archived? Where?
  • How will the information be captured?
  • What should be done with this information that is captured?
  • Who has access to the information that is captured?
  • What types of insights are being gleaned from the information that is captured?
  • How can these conversations be interpreted in order to build a stronger organization?

By integrating policy considerations into the playbook’s workflow, you’ll ensure your bases are covered for various social scenarios, while also being mindful of policy considerations that could affect how these scenarios are handled and how the workflows are laid out.

If you’ve built or are in the process of creating a community playbook, what have been some of your most successful strategies? What have been some of your challenges and how have you overcome them?


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