Listening to your community, part two focus groups…

The next step to really listen to our community was to dig a little deeper on the themes we had identified through the survey.

When you cover a community of 40,000 people you need to narrow your numbers down, you also need to think about what is a manageable number to facilitate. We’re a global company covering a variety of time zones, this meant we wouldn’t’ have the luxury of face to face and we needed to cover as many time zones as possible. We use google but I didn’t think a google hangout would be manageable with the numbers we anticipated, we chose WebEx.

We set a limit of 20 people per session, we should have had some back ups in hindsight. I’m based in the UK so we ran sessions at 7am, 12pm and 8pm. We had asked the respondents of the survey to include their email address, we invited these people to participate first. We then communicated the focus groups through our normal communication channels.

Top tips:

  • People will drop out, you can oversubscribed by about 5-10%
  • Be clear up front with the attendees that you welcome honest and open feedback, we used Chatham House Rules.
  • Make sure you record your focus groups you will want to listen back after the session for your notes. We were clear the recordings were for note taking only and would not be shared beyond our team.
  • Two facilitators make for a more productive use of everyone’s time, one should lead, they can take care of facilitating the conversation, ask the questions and move the conversation along. This person needs to be the time keeper too, it is critical you keep on time, if you don’t you won’t get through all your questions. The second facilitator can lead the conversation in the chat window, this gives everyone in the session the opportunity to get involved and share their views and be heard.
  • Limit the number of questions you want to ask and circulate ahead of the session if possible.
  • Turn your notes into really clear and actionable items, we chose to pick out short term actions and long term actions.
  • Share your summary with the attendees before posting in your community to check you’ve represented their views and comments (anonymously obviously).
  • You need diverse representation – it is important to listen to those who love your community and those that don’t.

The focus groups proved incredibly valuable – even more so than the survey, of course without the survey we wouldn’t have been able to narrow down the themes for the sessions. If you really want to listen to your community you need both.

We now have enough insights to help prioritise our time in the community and we will be able to use the information we’ve gathered for our roadmap and strategy planning. Going forward we will run this listening exercise annually.


Listening to your community, part one create a survey…


Listening to your community is one of the most important tasks of a community manager. If you had asked me at the beginning of the year, “do you listen to your community?” I would have said, “yes, we have plenty of places for people to feedback and we’ve had surveys and polls, we talk to people all the time”. Of course the truth is all those activities are part and parcel of the role, they are not listening.

Our objectives this year focus around being insights driven, we are looking at our data and re-evaluating how we measure success. We’re also embarking on a community improvement project and we wanted to make sure the decisions we are making to improve our community are insights driven too.

A survey is a great place to start if you have a global organisation and a very large community. We pulled together a survey

I’ve attached an example of the survey questions we used, you may what to consider adding more demographic questions, for example what role do your perform…sales, marketing, finance etc. Example Survey. Note we used an NPS score question, you can find out more about NPS here: Net Promoter Score.

We promoted our survey through our community and our Corporate Affairs executive invited colleagues to take part via email too. We had a 20% response rate, with over 13,000 comments. Top Tip: The more free text fields you add the more comments you will need to wade through, which isn’t necessarily of value.

  • Keep your survey open long enough to catch people on leave, but not too long that people grow tired of seeing the button on the homepage.
  • You will get the majority of your responses early on very few people actually go back and complete the survey after the first week
  • Incentives can work for getting people to share their details (helpful for follow up) but be careful to not trivialise the survey, your survey isn’t a gimmick, you are gathering useful insights.

Our survey provided us with so much data and so many comments, we decided to theme the responses and host focus groups to dig deeper into some of the challenges and opportunities…this is where we were able to REALLY listen. More on that in the next post.

Choice, variety and back to basics…

This week we’ve had the pleasure of having a student on work experience join our team, she’s 16 and has just finished her GCSE’s. We had a coffee and a chat and I asked her what three apps she couldn’t live without, she listed Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Tumblr as her top three, this was in direct contrast to my cousin (age 14) who listed Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter a few weeks earlier when I asked her the same question. Snapchat is clearly the favourite of the moment. But where one listed facebook messenger as her most used app, for the other it was a no no with her friends and she favoured Instagram. Interestingly they both agreed Twitter was boring.

Our world is filled with no end of choice and variety, we have a never ending diversity of needs, interests and expectations. However when this plays out in the workplace it makes us unproductive and siloed.

When I first took on the role of Community Manager at Pearson my first challenge was to merge 136 intranets into our new Enterprise Social Network (ESN) fondly named Neo (powered by Jive). Our objective was to break down silos, create one source of truth and have one platform where we were all equal. Five years later Neo is going strong but i’m starting to see more collaboration tools enter the mix, teams and departments are starting to think about using other tools.

Now I’m hardly the digital Luddite, in fact I’m normally an early adopter but I just can’t help having this niggling feeling – introducing more tools is only going to exasperate the challenge and silo information and teams further. How much productivity do we lose just trying to figure all these new tools out? The resources needed to implement, engage and launch new platforms is immense, I should know i’ve been doing it for one platform for the last five years. What seems to be forgotten when we’re all excited about all the shiny whistles and bells the vendor is promising success relies on – PEOPLE. You can throw new technology, more apps, customised systems at a problem; but if you don’t tackle the behavioural change your tools will fail.

There will always be thousands of apps and tools being marketed at us to “simplify” our personal and work lives. How we respond and adapt to these changes will become our most useful skill at work and at home. However at work our goal is to add value to our business, before considering if we need another tool or another way of doing things, we should invest a little more time talking to our people and fully explore the tools we already have. Are we using them to their full advantage?

I’ve personally spent the last two months speaking to colleagues, learning about use cases, hosting focus groups and surveying our community. It has been enlightening i’ve realised 2015 is the year we strip Neo back to basics and revisit engaging our community with all that it has to offer, especially since we’re upgrading to the cloud this summer!

We have quite the task list and as I work my through our Neo Improvement Project I will happily share the experience here…

Driving Community Engagement with Kim England – CommunityGeek

In February 2015 I had the pleasure of attending my first FeverBee Sprint Europe event I blogged about my experience here, Share and Share alike. I met so many super awesome community managers and i’ve continued to learn from the vast network of people I met at the event.

Caty Kobe from FeverBee followed up with me in April and recorded our session for CommunityGeek, I hope I am able to share a little bit of my experience with you check out the podcast here:

How social collaboration technology helped Pearson refocus and realign its business

I was so proud to have Neo be the topic of this case study written by Angela Ashenden from MWD Advisors about Pearson’s journey.

The report examines the implementation of an enterprise-wide social collaboration platform at Pearson, a global education and technology company, that allowed the organisation to connect its various businesses across 80 countries as part of an initiative to improve the sharing of news, information and best practices, and to encourage collaborative working across the different regions. The solution – branded as “Neo” – is based on technology from Jive Software. How social collaboration technology helped Pearson refocus and realign its business

If you’d like to find out more about Making Social Collaboration Work you can join us:

Location: Wallace Space Clerkenwell Green

Date: 15th October 2015



Socius means companion, you can’t have a community without other people so it makes sense to put these two words together to describe what it is I do. Since I was a child i’ve built communities, I ran sports days for my neighbours kids when I was 10 on my front garden. I was involved in everything and anything that involved people throughout school and university.

Building communities makes me happy and I believe communities make a difference. My life revolves around multiple communities in person, online, at work, in my personal life all across the globe. For some time i’ve wanted to write about communities and i’ve finally taken the first step. I’ve set this blog up so I can share my ideas, passion and experience, I hope I can inspire others to create communities too.

I’m a working mummy, I work at Pearson as Global Community Director and i’m mummy to a 20month old little boy, William.

Mummy and Bilbo using our Connecta solarweave.

Find out more about me: