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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Success Formula for Discussion Forums in Financial Services

I received a question this week related to Discussion Forums for Knowledge Sharing at Capital City Bank:

I successfully launched a discussion forum for a small group of lending assistants within my bank. That forum is still up and running. Since that time, I have attempted to introduce the discussion forum tool to two other work groups within the bank but I have not been very successful. I’ve used examples from the lending assistants as well as other benefits of the tool to demonstrate how its use would benefit the bank and these work groups. They see the benefit of the tool in a strict learning environment, but have difficulty seeing its use in an expanded role.

One of the things that this group has identified as one of their “problems” is that they receive too many emails. I presented the discussion forum as a solution to this problem, in that it would reduce the number of emails they receive because the information would not be in their in-box, and more importantly would allow discussion between the all the members (one to many) rather than one to one or one to a few. They pushed back because they felt that this was just one more place to go and one more thing to do. They were also concerned about the accuracy of the information that was published on the forum. I pointed out the benefit of correction of inaccurate information on a discussion forum is that it is visible and correctable - unlike information that is sent through email or other back channels of communication.  I could go on… but I’m sure you get the picture. 

I’m just having trouble getting traction and wondering what I can/should do better/different.

The one thing they were interested in finding out, is whether other financial institutions are using discussion forums and if so how. I was wondering you could help me find out if there are others, who they are and if they’d be willing to talk with me.

Great question.  Of course, there’s no easy answers here, but lots we can discuss and learn around this.

In terms of finding people with experience on this, my first suggestion was using LinkedIn and particularly looking through LinkedIn Guide for Knowledge Workers, LinkedIn for Finding Expertise, and Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers.  This is in process.  I’ll also reach out via twitter.  If you have other ideas or if you are at a financial institution and are willing to have a discussion with this person, please drop me a comment/email.

Of course, there’s a lot of great information out there on this via eLearning Learning under terms like Discussion Forum, Collaboration in Discussion Forums, Discussion Forum Adoption, Benefits of Discussion Forums, Discussion Forum Case Studies.  I also checked out Nancy White’s Communities and Networks site under Discussion Forums, Case Studies of Discussion Forums, and Community Building and Discussion Forums.

I found a lot of great stuff.  Let me start with some of the ones that are probably more relevant to this particular inquiry:

  1. Examples of online communities in the financial services industry- FreshNetworks, March 17, 2009
  2. 7 Creative Ways to Introduce Social Media to Your Team- Learning Putty, October 22, 2009
  3. Using Online Forums in Social Learning- Learning Putty, October 19, 2009
  4. Change agents, group forums and the one percent rule.- Business Casual, October 29, 2008
  5. Making Intranet Discussion Groups Effective- eLearning Technology, June 15, 2006
  6. Requirement to Social Learning Adoption #2 - Compatibility- Engaged Learning, February 24, 2009
  7. The Holy Trinity: Leadership Framework, Learning 2.0 & Enterprise 2.0- trainingwreck, May 8, 2010
  8. Ten tips for choosing & using social software- Learning Conversations, February 23, 2009
  9. Promoting Social Learning- eLearning Blender, May 23, 2009
  10. Get involved and make the most of your online community- FreshNetworks, June 3, 2009
  11. Examples of online communities in healthcare- FreshNetworks, April 8, 2009
  12. Blogger in Middle-earth: Working With Online Learning Communities- Blogger in Middle-earth, April 14, 2009
  13. How To Kill A Community, February 12, 2009
  14. Online Success - a recipe for learners and facilitators- Designed for Learning, February 14, 2010
  15. eLearn: Best Practices - Discussion Management Tips for Online Educators, September 30, 2009
  16. Franchisees Benefit from Learning 2.0 at Zaxby's - 1/15/2009 8:54:00 AM - Chain Leader, January 17, 2009
  17. Facilitating online communities - WikiEducator, June 11, 2009
  18. HOW TO Sell Social Media to Cynics, Skeptics & Luddites - Tips, Resources & Advice - UPDATED, June 2, 2009
  19. Intel Communities: IT@Intel Blog: Why Intel is investing in Social Computing, February 15, 2009
  20. Community of Practice for Facilitators : pilot, adoption and participation- Library Clips, September 13, 2009
  21. Team-based communities : Transparency and Crowdsourcing for a more cohesive workplace- Library Clips, March 9, 2009
  22. BT Web 2.0 adoption case study " Inside out, February 20, 2009 
  23. How to kick start a Community | Connie Bensen, May 20, 2008
  24. Cisco on Collaboration: Know Your Enthusiasts & Laggards | Future Changes, October 2, 2009
  25. Essential reading for online community managers- FreshNetworks, January 5, 2010
  26. Insight from online communities: 2. Focused discussions- FreshNetworks, January 19, 2009
  27. Is this the Future of Forums?- eModeration, May 4, 2009
  28. The top-down and bottom-up creation of enterprise communities, and wikis- Library Clips, December 18, 2008
  29. More thoughts on community structure and creation- Library Clips, January 11, 2009
  30. Forums Are Everywhere and Here to Stay, So Skip the Tools Discussion and Focus on Your Objectives, March 25, 2010
  31. Discussions Are Not Warfare; Forums Are Not a Battlefield, December 9, 2009
  32. 5 Easy Ways to Find Stories, Topics and Discussions to Post on Your Online Community, February 24, 2009
  33. Understanding the difference between Forums, Blogs, and Social Networks, February 10, 2008
  34. How to Develop Robust Moderation Methodology- Community Guy, March 23, 2010
  35. Back to Basics: Want to Know What Your Community Members Need? Just Ask., January 19, 2010
  36. Creating Passionate Users: How to Build a User Community, Part 1, June 17, 2007
  37. Why so many community initiatives fail to take flight…, January 17, 2009
  38. Social Media and the insurance industry- FreshNetworks, February 18, 2010
  39. Implementing Enterprise 2.0 at Booz Allen: The Series- Portals and KM, January 20, 2010

More Resources on Discussion Forums, Communities:

  1. Forums vs. Social Networks?- eLearning Technology, September 15, 2008
  2. 5 Easy Tips for Teaching Online Courses- Learning Putty, January 18, 2010
  3. Forums – Day 1 – What is it?- Engaged Learning, November 23, 2009
  4. Discussion Forums for Knowledge Sharing at Capital City Bank- eLearning Technology, September 15, 2009
  5. The new look Captivate forum- Adobe Captivate Blog, April 8, 2009
  6. I want to facilitate online discussions but how do I choose the right platform?- Joitske Hulsebosch eLearning, November 14, 2009
  7. Top 10 Ways Social Media Will Impact Employee Development and Training in 2010- Learning Putty, October 29, 2009
  8. 22 Social Learning Strategy Questions to Answer Before Your Next Lesson- Learning Putty, July 1, 2010
  9. From formal courses to social learning- Learning Conversations, November 26, 2009
  10. Tips for facilitators in Ning- Joitske Hulsebosch eLearning, March 13, 2009
  11. Making the case for social media- Good Practice, November 2, 2009
  12. Social learning: all talk and no action?- Spicy Learning, February 5, 2010
  13. Communities of practice- Learnforever, May 31, 2010
  14. Make way for virtual learning communities- Electronic Papyrus, March 25, 2009
  15. An Introduction to blogs, wikis, and RSS - New Technologies for e-Learning, September 20, 2007
  16. ONLINE FORUM: Lights, Camera, Action - Using Media to Engage the Learner, June 2, 2009
  17. Online social networks, learning and viral expansion loops- Sticky Learning, December 14, 2009
  18. Community of Practice for Facilitators : pilot, adoption and participation, September 13, 2009
  19. Distributed Network Learning FAQ - WikiEducator, December 20, 2008
  20. Seed, feed, & weed- Learnlets, September 17, 2009
  21. Online communication is not second best- Clive on Learning, October 11, 2007
  22. The Power of Community |, May 28, 2009
  23. conversation matters: What Do We Get From Conversation That We Can't Get Any Other Way?, April 14, 2009
  24. Case Study: Comics in Community Communication- Community Guy, August 10, 2009
  25. Designing an online and face-to-face learning trajectory- Joitske Hulsebosch, July 15, 2009
  26. Employee social networking case study : Sabre's cubeless product, September 1, 2008
  27. Understanding the difference between Forums, Blogs, and Social Networks, February 10, 2008
  28. I want to facilitate online discussions but how do I choose the right platform?- Joitske Hulsebosch, November 14, 2009
  29. Should anonymous comments be allowed in an online community?- FreshNetworks, March 7, 2010
  30. Oldie but goodie: "CompuServe's Intranet Forum"- Endless Knots, February 23, 2009
  31. What’s the biggest mistake a community manager can make?- FreshNetworks, December 24, 2009
  32. Are your community's lurkers healthy lurkers?- Joitske Hulsebosch, June 15, 2009
  33. Preparing for community release- Library Clips, April 11, 2009
  34. Community Netiquette: How to Avoid Stepping on Virtual Toes- Community Guy, August 4, 2009
  35. Facilitating an online discussion to foster cooperation between two development organisations, December 27, 2006
  36. Full Circle Online Interaction Blog: Updating my basic article on online facilitation, April 29, 2007

What other resources or case studies would you point to around this topic?

Any thoughts or advice?

Help would be sincerely appreciated!


V Yonkers said...

Looking through the resources you have gathered, it seems you have identified the main problem here which is community building. I would be interested in knowing when the other forum was established.

Part of the problem in financial institutions today (as opposed to two years ago) is that they are under the scrutiny of regulators. I have been an employee in an atmosphere of high government regulation (I was an internal auditor) and learned never to put anything in writing that I was not absolutely sure of. It could come back to bite you. This sounds like a similar climate.

It seems to me that first there needs to be a sense of connection with the other members of forum outside of the forum. Once this has been established, the community needs to feel that they need the online forum. How has the forum been set up? How will they use it? Will there be a moderator? Will it be private? Anonymous? How will you insure the group's privacy? How will you remind them that the forum is there? Often, having a forum that is linked to a vital website is more useful than one in which they receive email updates.

To get them to use the forum, you will need to have "events" that will bring them back to the community (i.e. online training events, important updates from those in authority, interviews or guest "appearances" by key decision makers or stake holders). I think if you were to look at the previous forum, you will find that there was some hook that got them going and/or key personnel that maintained the forum. My experience is that there are some groups that just won't share and others that won't do it online.

Finally, I would look to the tools being used. With twitter and other "shortened" tools being used today, a forum is outdated and not useful. A social network such as facebook or ning gives a more informal feeling, but also requires a moderator to update information. This person, from the concerns you have identified, should be someone in a position of authority so the information provided is validated and filtered.

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - fantastic comment! Do you really feel that a classic forum won't cut it anymore in a corporate environment?

Kem said...

Enjoyed the link to online communities in financial institutions. As a director for a local credit union, I recognize the need and value of social networking and the examples provided are great ideas for consideration.

V Yonkers said...

I wouldn't say that a classic forum won't ever work. It depends on the community. I think older workers would prefer the forum format (i.e. upper management). However, I think as workers are being squeezed for time, attention, and accountability, they need tools that will fit their community's "personality". If they are facebook users (which more and more people are), they will want to access information through facebook. If they have all received training through a ning or other tool, they are familiar with that tool so are more apt to use it. If they are following each other on twitter, they are more apt to want to share information using that format. But the tool should come from the community rather than the training or IT department forcing them to use something. The ideal would be to negotiate between the two groups what would work.

Himansu sahoo said...

Loved the link to online communities in economic institutions. As a director for a regional credit union, I accept the demand and value of personal networking and the examples offered tend to be great ideas for consideration. .