SWOOP classifies certain collaboration characteristics into five different personas:
- Engager: Will be posting and/or replying and/or reacting, but also receives replies and reactions in a (roughly) equal amount.
- Catalyst: Receives a lot more than they give, e.g. are seeding conversations that leads to a lot of replies/reactions.
- Responder: Tends to reply to others (or clicks 'like'), but posts significantly less.
- Broadcaster: Tends to post messages that are not replied or reacted to, so the conversation is mostly ‘one-way’.
- Observer: Interacts less than once every 2 weeks.
In the sections below we go into much deeper detail about each one.
The ‘Engager’ persona is calculated as a balance of all contributions made against responses received. Contributions include posts, replies, and reactions made, while responses are replies and reactions received.
According to the research on the positive collaborative behaviours that contribute to superior performance, the balance of give-receive is a key indicator. In his book “Social Physics” , MIT’s Sandy Pentland identifies the team members associated with high performing teams have a balance of give and receive in their interactions. Pentland was also able to identify the nature of the interactions as being short, sharp and frequent. For high performing teams, relationships have matured to the point where tacit knowledge exchanges do not require extensive explanations and justifications. Average message length could capture this dynamic though we have yet to implement this.
We see ‘Engagers’ as the glue that keeps groups engaged. They are the brokers and connectors. Without ‘Engagers’, a group risks disconnected conversations and therefore unproductive interactions. Is there a problem having a team full of engagers? In most instances we would say no, as this would indicate the group is buzzing along in a highly productive way. The exception we would make is when an injection of new thoughts or innovations are required. For that we see the need for some ‘Catalysts’ to be added to the mix.
Based on the benchmarking we have done to date, it is not easy to reach the ‘Engager’ persona. We believe that everyone should aspire to attain and then sustain this persona despite this, because you will then have the skills to be a productive member of any group. It will require you to be mindful of your contribution patterns and the sorts of posts and replies that you make, and whether that attracts the desired reactions from your colleagues.
There will, however, be times where it may be appropriate for you to adopt a different behavioural persona. For example, if the group is looking for fresh ideas and positive change, the ‘Catalyst’ persona may be more appropriate for you if you want to lead that change. In other contexts you may be looking to sustain interactions in a group, where the ‘Responder’ persona may be a positive one for you.
The ‘Catalyst’ persona is currently defined as an individual with a significant surplus of responses received over contributions made. Contributions include posts, replies and reactions, while responses are replies and reactions received. Have a look at your interaction patterns on your favoured social channel to find out if you ‘fit the bill’.
‘Catalysts’ are more commonly labeled as ‘Influencers’ in the social media world. A ‘Catalyst’ is able to attract a disproportionate number of responses to their posting contributions. In fact, the larger the number of responses that they can gain from a single post, the more influential and valued they are perceived. A good ‘Catalyst’ will gain a reputation and a following from those that value their contributions. It’s not a trivial task to become a catalyst/influencer in the social media world. They are sought after by advertisers because of the strength of their following.
In the enterprise context, influencing in the advertising context may be less valued. However, ‘Catalysts’ will be commonly associated with innovation and positive change; something that should be important to all groups to differing extents. A strategy, marketing, or business improvement group would be positively impacted by the presence of Catalysts. Alternatively, business process execution teams, who live by standard process compliance, could be disrupted negatively by a sizeable number of ‘Catalysts’.
If the roles you aspire to are to be the change agent and/or disrupter of the status quo, then developing your skills to achieve the ‘Catalyst’ persona may be for you. However, you can’t just decide to become a ‘Catalyst’ overnight. The trick is to be able to consistently attract multiple responses on things you post; something you can’t control directly. Have a look at this question on Quora on how to become influential. Note that building relationships is a key pre-condition. Being seen as a reliable and constructive ‘Responder’ or ‘Engager’ could perhaps be a required step on the journey towards becoming a successful ‘Catalyst’.
The ‘Responder’ persona is currently defined as an individual with a significant surplus of contributions made, over responses received. Contributions include posts, replies and reactions, while responses are replies and reactions received.
‘Responders’ are the ‘caregivers’ in groups. They make sure that fellow members are not left out on a limb with no responses to their contributions. While they may not be a source of insightful posts that gain large numbers of responses themselves, they are regular responders by way of replies or reactions. Their positive contribution is provided by ensuring their fellow members become part of conversations. Of course in a Q&A context they could also be our specialist experts.
High performing ‘Responders’ will prefer a formal reply over a simple like. They make it their business to ensure that no question goes unanswered, often referring questions to those they believe can help if they can’t answer directly. In this way they may also play an ‘Engager’ role from time to time.
Formal ‘community managers’ are the archetype ‘Responder’. As community managers, their role is to facilitate the growth and sustainability of their respective group. Inside a team, the team leader may sometimes play this role during a team-building phase. For more established teams the team co-ordinator/administrator may adopt this role. If you have a natural preference for caregiving, this is the role for you.
Like the ‘Responder’ persona, the ‘Broadcaster’ is defined as an individual with a significant surplus of contributions made, over responses received. Broadcasters are differentiated from Responders due to their original posts outnumbering the number of replies they provide.
‘Broadcasters’, as the name infers, suggest that these people have a bias toward publishing over the more conversational aspects that would include more liberal use of the ‘reply’ and ‘like’ contributions. Because a collaboration platform is founded on active and engaged conversations, it is generally advisable to keep the number of 'Broadcasters' low. That said, there would be instances where an individual might correctly adopt a ‘Broadcaster’ persona. For example, if you are responsible for launching a brand new initiative, say like a new marketing campaign, or organizing an event. For a limited time you would be required to undertake substantial original postings to begin the initiative.
If you feel that your role requires you to continuously adopt a ‘Broadcaster’ persona, you may want to consider whether the collaboration platform is the appropriate vehicle for you. It is likely that your organisation will have other platforms for publishing content e.g. Intranet, Document Management Systems, etc.
The ‘Observer’ persona is simply defined by a minimum activity level. Whereas it is now possible to extract 'seen by' data in Workplace, it is not yet possible in Yammer so we only include those that have at some time clicked at least ‘like’, ‘reply’, etc. Somewhat arbitrarily, we have classified anyone who has interacted on the platform less than once every 2 weeks, over a 3 month period, as an ‘Observer’.
The ‘Observer’ persona is the most populous of the personas in the benchmarking studies SWOOP has done to date. We believe this reflects the emerging maturity of many of the corporate social networking platforms. An alternative argument is that Enterprise Social Networks can still add value even with lower participation rates i.e. the ‘lurker’ value proposition. Research from IBM indicates that there are a variety of community types that can form within Enterprises (Community of Practice, Team, Technical Support, Idea Lab, Recreation), which demonstrate different patterns of connectivity. One could reasonably argue that a Technical Support community adds value by making experts available to less expert ‘Observers’; and therefore a larger number of observers is expected. The same argument however could not be made for a Team, Idea Lab, or Community of Practice, where the fundamental design is for inclusive membership.
As enterprise social networks are about collaboration, and as observation is a one-way channel, the ‘Observer’ is seen as the least collaborative. This is not to say that the platform is not providing value to ‘Observers’; it most probably is. However, we believe that the most productive value that can be gained from a social networking platform is when people collaborate. Consistent and frequent collaboration demonstrates continuous knowledge sharing, co-operation, co-ordination, and therefore performance. In our view the ‘Observer’, with perhaps the exception of Technical Support users, should always be looking to upgrade their status to one of the other personas.
‘Observers’ should be aware that there is clear evidence that the leaders of the future are those that can pro-actively build their relationship networks. You may think that you can do most of your networking and relationship building off-line, but the digital divide is rapidly disappearing.
Of course there are situations where being an ‘Observer’ is appropriate. If you are new to social media or indeed new to the organisation, it would be prudent to spend some time observing the network interactions, understanding who the network leaders are and what the unwritten protocols might be. However, like the ‘Broadcaster’ persona, it should only ever be a temporary status for you. Once you are confident on the value you could add as one of the positive personas, you should jump in and start interacting.