Assessment a key to enagement

By Mark Eichler posted Mar 22, 2010 02:47 PM


As a proud Syracuse University alum I HAD to blog this week to get my orange tee-shirt.  I need it in time for going all-orange when (not if) SU makes it's way back to the final four. 

(Stretching for a segue) When I was at SU as a freshman - 20 years ago this summer - I had to take an assessment to see which German class I was ready for.  I took German in HS and was building upon this base in preparation for marrying a fluent German speaker (who I had not yet met - funny how that happened, regardless...).  

Just as I was given a German test at SU, it makes sense to solidly assess member aptitudes when moving to a new website that incorporates cutting-edge tools.   

Getting a good assessment is tricky.  No one wants to admit they are not the strongest web-user.   And many of those who consider themselves "highly skilled in online environments" base their self assessment on successful adoption of Web 1.0 resources (like reading their newspaper online).  Many of these will have no experience engaging with online communities through Web 2.0 platforms.  You need to assess both of these, and emphasize the 2.0 aspect – and assess not just experience but also values. 

What does this mean?  You want specific information regarding the platforms you are considering adopting to define your population.  Asking the right questions will help you segment your association's members into four rough buckets.

1) Positive Newbies
People who are aware of web 2.0 platforms and have not engaged in them, but are looking for the opportunity

2) Negative Newbies
People who are aware of web 2.0 platforms but consider them to be of little value -- maybe they have even avoided engagement

3) Leisurely Lurkers
People who read a blog occasionally, or look over their spouse's shoulder at their spouse's facebook account when new messages/pictures come in from the kids.

4) Active Adopters
Blogging, Tweeting, Wall-scribbling, multiple-platform-using go-getters of all things Web 2.0.

If a survey is your best option, don't simply ask "are you a skilled web user?" or "how many hours do you spend online per week?".  Also ask questions about sites with features similar to the vendors you are considering.  And don't forget questions to help establish their valuation of web 2.0 tools.  Yes - ask "do you consider sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to be a 'waste of time'". 

If structured appropriately, your survey can help you categorize your membership into the four buckets and help you understand the ratio of EDUCATION to PROMOTION you need when rolling out a state-of-the-art site.  In general, if you aren't above 50% for Active Adopters, you will need to include some educational support to boost adoption of your web 2.0 tools.

Please learn from our experience.   

Prior to my joining the SNAME staff, our members by-and-large declared themselves web-savvy and fairly sophisticated users of all things internet.  But if we asked some different questions we would have gotten very different answers.  Based on what I know now, we would have seen the membership breaking down this way:

1) Positive Newbies (PN) - 30%
2) Negative Newbies (NN) -30%
3) Liesurely Lurkers (LL)- 20%
4) Active Adopters (AA) - 20% (especially student members)

Having learned that these are (roughly) our buckets through experience, we are focusing on EDUCATION (microsites, support calls, video tutorials, dedicated member-helpers) to help move PNs and LLs into AAs.  And we are empowering AAs to assist everyone else.  Getting a cross-mentoring relationship infrastructure together is very high on my priority list. 

You are probably wondering "How to handle NNs"?  They won't want to be left behind when the rest of the Society is engaged.  In general, let them come when they are ready.  But if they have critical mass - 50% or so - you will need to address these concerns explicitly.  Use the obvious examples of web 2.0 value (LinkedIn in a job search is a strong one) in your messaging.  Empower your prominent AAs to clarify why "there is no turning back" from Web 2.0 tools.   

So, yes, assess!  And then combine educational resources with your promotional efforts as appropriate when the new site goes live. 

Thanks, Mark

And by the way, I intentionally botched that German assessment.  Good thing, too.  I got a C+ in German 105.