Net Promoter Score

One metric that you should be borrowing from your social media marketing colleagues is Net Promoter Score (NPS).  NPS is a broad measurement of an audience’s view of an organization or product.  In business it is used to gauge the reputation of a company’s brand or how loyal customers are to a product.  Two things it would be great to understand about your community or your learning and development offerings.

NPS is calculated from the answers to the question, 

“how likely is it that you would recommend [product/brand] to a friend or colleague?”

An 11-point Likert scale is used to enable customers to rate their satisfaction with their experience.Net Promoter Score

Scores are gathered and totaled with answers between 0-6 being labeled distractors, 7-8 labeled passive and 9-10 as promoters.  If you subtract the distractors from the promoters, the result is your NPS.  It reflects the overall satisfaction with, in this case, your community.  The raw number (in the example, -2.7%) is not that valuable.  But by watching the movement of your score over time you can effectively gauge the relative health of your community.

You can also look at the number of promoters vs the number of detractors for insights as well.  Because of the behaviors of promoters, passives, and detractors, the NPS has been shown to be predictive of business growth in three areas. Because they are behavioral, they can be indicative of engagement and loyalty and thus applied to our communities.

Higher Margins and Spend

At first, this may not seem applicable, but let’s parse it out a bit.  If you do have a revenue line (ie, membership fees or products/courses that your members purchase), promoters are less-price sensitive while detractors are price conscious.  Promoters will be more likely to buy more and less likely to complain about the membership fee.

Higher Retention Rate

Detractors defect from an organization or brand at a higher rate than promoters.  Thus membership will drop. Interest in participating in learning activities will suffer.

Greater Word of Mouth

Promoters account for most referrals.  This will lead to more new members and greater retention of more current member.  It’s the promoters who convert Linkers and Lurkers to Learners in our communities.  Detractors are responsible for negative word of mouth which can lead to members leaving the community and overall negativity.

But What Does it Mean?

In my example above, we found an NPS of -2.7.  So what does that mean? In and of itself it honestly doesn’t mean a thing.  NPS is not a fixed measurement. -2.7 could be good or bad, depending on what your NPS has been in the past. 

If our NPS has traditionally been in the +10 to +15 range, then this -2.7 indicates that something negative happened in the last period.  If the NPS rebounds to it’s traditional level, then the event was one that came and went and your members have let it pass.  If however it remains at the lower level, you have a more systemic issue to deal with. 

If on the other hand, your NPS has been in the negatives for a long time, the -2.7 NPS could be indicating that your efforts to improve your community and engage your members and customers is working.

Net Promoter Score is not a silver bullet metric, but it should be in your list of key metrics. It can clearly alert you to whether your members and customers are happy or not. It can help you understand if new engagement initiatives are working. It can sound the alert that something is not sitting right with your members and customers.


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

Roles in CoP’s Revisited: Learning

Learning is the role that defines a community. Interaction amongst members is the lifeblood. In this post I look at what, how and why members learn.

(This is the fifth post in a series of six that is a revision of a post I wrote on ATD’s “Learning Circuit’s Blog” on June 10, 2006, entitled “Roles in CoP’s” in which I introduced the 4L Model of Roles in Online Communities.)

Now we get to where the action is at in communities – Learning.  Communities are at their best when they are jointly:

  • seeking new knowledge,
  • sharing ideas and information,
  • recombining those ideas and information into new ideas,
  • co-creating products and content,
  • learning and practicing new skills,
  • sharing what the community has aggregated and created within the community and beyond.
Learners and Leaders
Learners and Leaders are at the core of the community.

But not only is learning the “stuff” that a community collects and creates, but the process of learning is the driving mechanism that makes a community run and thrive. For a community to work, it needs a solid core of members who are interacting with each other and the rest of the community.

In the comments to my post back in 2006, it was suggested that I was missing another role in my model.  One person even suggested that it was a 5th L – Love.  While it is true that in strong communities, love and compassion among members is quite normal, it is a characteristic of the community, not a role to be played.

Sense of Community

While greatly outnumbered by the Linkers and Lurkers, it is the Learning group of participants who drive the success of the community.  They identify themselves as “the community” and are the example to Linkers and Lurkers of what it means to be a member of the community.  For a community to endure, there must be a strong sense of what it means to be a member of that community.  Richard Millington of Feverbee characterizes sense of community as when members, “sacrifice part of their own identity to accept, embrace, and then defend the group identity.”

A community thrives by its connections, not by its collections!

– Valdis Krebs

In their article, Sense of Community: A Definition and Theory, David McMillan and David Chavis outline four foundational elements that contribute to a sense of community:

  1. Membership – Membership is a feeling that one has invested part of oneself to become a member and therefore has a right to belong.
  2. Influence – People only participate in a community if they feel they can influence the community
  3. Integration and Fulfillment of Needs – We want to join groups that make us better than we are today
  4. Shared Emotional Connections – Members have to feel that fellow members share the same values

The challenge is that these elements are hard, if at all possible, to teach in an in-person training event or a series of online courses. The best way to help develop these elements is through real-life experiences. Communities enable this sort of learning as members can experiment with new roles, take on new challenges, find mentors, and other experiential learning situations.

A Scenario of Learning

In a healthy community, interaction among members has a multiplier effect as engagement and involvement will. If during a project we are working on together you share with me a technique for accomplishing a task. I incorporate it into my work and my team is blown away and they adopt it. A fellow community member was looking at our project and suggested that we should do an online webinar for the community regarding our application of your technique. In addition to the spread of a great idea there are a number of other positives:

  • I learned how creative you are and how much you care about your work (learning about others),
  • I learned that collaborating can be effective and fun, (learning new ways of working),
  • You had never attended a webinar, let alone co-facilitated one and now you’re talking about doing a regular session (expanding skills),
  • Neither of us knew how many people were involved in the organization’s webinar program (learning about the organization),
  • Jane Smith asked me to join a committee in the organization (gaining exposure),
  • I never would have thought I would be able to attempt a project like this. And here we are – done. (learning about ourselves)

Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger proposed that this situated learning – learning in real time in a context that is real, not simulated – is the way members of a community move from novice to fully participating members.

It is through becoming involved in the work of the community that members gain new knowledge, develop new skills, and expand their professional network. In working with others who share similar goals, attitudes, and beliefs that learners find the safety to experiment with new concepts and behaviors, share new ideas, challenge the way they have worked, and try out new roles.

Vehicles of Learning

Yes, there are passive learning opportunities – reading community content, watching videos, attending webinars. But the unique power of a community comes in collaborative activity amongst members. Some of those activities include:

  • co-creation of materials (reports, communication, marketing)
  • participation in discussion groups
  • research activities (surveys, data collection, reports)
  • presentations, workshops, and webinars
  • creation and presentation of events and conferences
  • projects for the community
  • helping other participants (new member outreach, mentoring)
  • administrative work to help manage the community
  • participation in work teams and committees
  • recruiting of new members

The key to Learners being active and participating is in the hands of the community leadership. In the next post in this series, I’ll discuss the Leading role.

Previous posts in the series:

Coming posts in the series:

  • 6) Roles in CoP’s Revisted: Leading

Roles in CoP’s Revisited: Linking

(This is the third post in a series of six that is a revision of a post I wrote on ATD’s “Learning Circuit’s Blog” on June 10, 2006 entitled “Roles in CoP’s” in which I introduced the 4L Model of Roles in Online Communities.)

Why do people join online communities?

  • Socialization – They want to be around like-minded people.  “I want to be around people who speak my language and understand my problems.”
  • Expertise – They want to learn from and with the leaders on a topic. “I want to learn from them.” “I want to understand how they do what they do.”
  • Reputation – They want to build their status within the community, field, or their own organization.  “I want to be respected by these people.”
  • Affiliation – They are attracted by the community’s purpose and membership.  “I want to be a part of that group.” “I want people to know I’m a member of this group.”
  • Behavior – They want to do what the community does or helps people do.  “I want to do what they are doing.” “I want to change what I’ve been doing.”
  • Contribution – They want to help a community achieve its purpose.  “I want to use my knowledge and skills to help.” “I want to give my time and efforts to a worthy cause.”
  • Competition – They want to learn what is going on in other organizations.  They may even be looking for employees or experts to poach.  “I want to know if they are doing something that we don’t know about.” ” I want to find out who they are talking to/with.”
  • Assignment – and some people are assigned to participate in communities for projects or courses.

To be clear, I am defining “joining” as taking an action that intentionally brings a community into my life.  This can be as formal as paying a membership fee or achieving a certification or as minimal as signing up for a newsletter or bookmarking a web link.

Groups in Online Communities (formerly Roles in CoPs)

I know, about time. Right?

Let me start with a couple of key principles around groups.

  1. These groups are not mutually exclusive of each other. The boundaries between the groups are not starkly defined. The groups are descriptors of general behaviors.
  2. An individual can play more than one role in a community.
  3. We all play different roles in the different communities we join.

There may be a fifth group to consider, but I’m not to the point of adding them to my model, but I will talk about them briefly.  Based on his research around the Landscape of Trust and Communities of Practice, Julian Stodd is suggesting that communities are more defined by their community than by their common purpose.  He argues that the shape of the community may come from understanding who is left out – disenfranchised, excluded, denied membership, lack of technical access, lack of specific knowledge, etc – than by who is in the community.

Linking and Lurking

The first two roles I’ll discuss are Linking and Lurking.  Often these two groups are lumped together, but I think there are differences between the two that are important.

Research has clearly shown that these combined groups are by far the largest group of people involved in open online communities.  Closed communities that restrict access to a membership and internal communities will not have these groups of members (or very limited ones). Valdis Krebs, says this group can be as much as 2/3’s of a community’s participants.

Back in 2006, there was very little ability to see Linkers and Lurkers.  Today, thanks in

Linkers and Lurkers Illustration
Linkers and Lurkers in Online Communities

large part to the efforts of our colleagues over in Marketing who have had to deal with the massive shift to Social Media Marketing, there are simple ways to get an understanding of not only how many Linkers and Lurkers an online community have, but to understand a great deal about who they are, what they value, and what they do.


These people have taken the most minimal actions possible to join your community. They may have bookmarked your URL or signed up for your mailing list. Some may not realize that you consider them to be a part of your community.

Of course, the question begged here is “If they aren’t involved in the activities of the community, why should we care about them?”  There are several reasons to strive to understand these members of your community.

  1. Future members – Clearly they are interested enough in what you are doing to have taken action to join your community. Analyze what the action was that drew them in. Follow up with more similar opportunities.
  2. Feedback for Improvement – You likely have some way of reaching out to these folks.  Survey them regarding why they haven’t participated.  What would it take to get them more involved?
  3. Dissonant Voices – It’s very likely that there are disgruntled potential participants and former participants among your Linkers.  While approaching them may be tricky, they are likely a drag on the community now. Find out what their pain points are and see if you can’t meet them.
  4. Your Brand – Despite their lack of participation, there are a lot of them and their views on your community can have an impact on your brand’s reputation in the marketplace. Letting Linkers know you are aware they are there can create that little spark that will lead them on a path to becoming members.  Asking their opinions can accelerate that process.

Some Linkers will “check in” on your community from time to time.  Make sure the initial image of your community is dynamic and current.  If they are linked to you by a newsletter, make sure the newsletter is appealing and tells a compelling story about your community.  In both cases, you might have a special offer of new content or a simple community poll. These efforts could be the thing that gets a Linker to start Lurking.  The key is to make sure that the public facing side of your community is attractive to potential new members.

How Do We Know They are There?

When I wrote the original post in 2006, there was really no great way to tell who was a Linker. Sure there were things like tracking if someone posted your permalink somewhere – but that data was limited and didn’t include folks who simply bookmarked your site. At Learning Circuits Blog, we tried a number of tactics to get a better idea of how many linkers we had.  The best tool we added were anonymous mini polls that addressed an issue in the blog post. This did shine a temporary light on our linkers.  We had proven they were there, but only episodically.

Today there are a number of devices and tools that Social Media Marketers have developed to see who is visiting their sites, where they are coming from, what campaigns led them to their site, etc.  In addition, social media listening tools are powerful ways to keep an eye on what people are saying about your community. We in L&D need to spend time understanding these techniques and adapt them to meet our needs.

In the next post in this series, I’ll discuss the Lurking role.

Previous posts in the series:

Coming posts in the series:


Roles in CoP’s Revisited: Purposes, Characteristics, and Types

(This is the second post in a series of six that is a revision of a post I wrote on ATD’s “Learning Circuit’s Blog” on June 10, 2006 entitled “Roles in CoP’s” in which I introduced the 4L Model of Roles in Online Communities.)


One of the key characteristics of a community – online or face-to-face – is that it has a purpose. Wenger defines communities as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” Communities form and grow when new members are attracted to participation by the purpose of the community as it manifests through its activities, content, and members.

These days there are online communities for pretty much anything you can think of. It doesn’t matter what the purpose a community has. What matters is that all members know what it is and are working together toward it. A community’s purpose is the glue that holds it together and the beacon that attracts new members.

You may have noticed I’ve changed my discussion from Communities of Practice (CoP’s) to simply online communities. While many of the principles and practices of communities apply regardless whether they are online, face-to-face, or a mix of the two; narrowing this discussion to online communities allows some efficiency in the discussion. Also, the innovation in the workplace has been the emergence of communities based online.

Finally, Communities of Practice is a specific type of community. (For a complete definition of CoP’s check out There are various types of communities which our organizations can use to drive learning both in and outside the walls of our offices.

Characteristics of Communities

Before I move to types of communities, I think it’s helpful to look at the characteristics of online communities. In his discussion of communities in The Social Leadership Handbook 2/e, Julian Stodd provides a concise characterization of communities by identifying where they fit on three scales (visible to hidden, formal to social, and internal to external). What I like about his categorizations is they avoid characterizing communities by transactions (ie, member/non-members, refereed content/contributed content, etc.). His categories are continuums with numerous combinations possible.

Visible/Hidden – This scale describes how much of the community’s activity, content, and membership is openly available to a wider community beyond. Some communities are completely hidden because they are focused on a defined membership, event, or project. Hidden communities encourage candid sharing and provide safe places to disagree and try new ideas and processes. Totally visible communities have no barriers to participation, access to content and other members.

Most communities fall somewhere in between with part of the community “for members only” and other areas open to the public or the organization as a whole. One example of a hybrid community is the Community Roundtable. On one level, it is an open resource center with a nice array of content available to anyone interested in online communities, but the real community activity is only available to members (who have to meet a set of criteria and pay a membership fee). I’m a lurker in this community, learning from the public content that is the product of the community’s activities.

Formal/Social – This scale has to do with where the power sits, the governance, and control. In a formal community, a sponsoring organization may be providing funding because it created the community to meet specific organizational needs. They might provide staff and control the content. (Although too much control by any person or group can kill off a community quickly.) In other formal communities, membership may be restricted to specific groups of people and/or activities may be prescribed to meet the purpose of the community.

In a totally social community the members set the agenda, any leadership roles are voluntary and likely rotate regularly. Those who wish to participate in a totally social community may need to register with the community, but this is usually a technical consideration to set up an identity in the community. If the community has expenses, they may be covered by nominal membership fees, donations, or advertising revenue.

A good example of a hybrid community along this continuum is Github. This community for developers hosts some of the world’s largest open source tools (including the xAPI specification) providing a common structure and protocol that is open for any project while also including for-fee closed, secure spaces for non-open source tools. Access to GitHub is available to anyone. Participation is limited only by your knowledge and it is filled with folks who will patiently help you learn – if you are authentically willing to work. I’m somewhere between a lurker and learner on. GitHub.  I have learned about specifics of the xAPI specification via content posted in Github and I’ve downloaded a couple of open source tools.  I say I’m a lurker/learner because I’ve been learning from the community, but not with the community.

Internal/External – this scale is about where a community seeks to draw its membership from and the scope of its purpose. Internal communities may be formed by a company for a project, a change management initiative, or to connect a franchise network. Often they will focus on proprietary issues to be held confidential within the organization. External communities are set up either by an organization to empower, engage, or learn from the marketplace or their customers.  Communities of interest are often not part of any organization – forming completely on their own.

Hybrid communities are common along this scale, combining organizational content, context, and control with customer and user feedback.  Microsoft’s customer support communities or Articulate’s E-Learning Heroes are two examples.

Types of Online Communities

If you google “types of communities” you’ll see quickly that there is no real agreement on what types of communities there are.  I do believe that the above conversation about characteristics of communities may help in reducing the noise regarding types of communities.  In the end, true communities are individual and unique from any other community but there is some benefit in setting a few broad types.

Communities of Practice – These communities are formed to create and build together.  They can be focused on a specific project or missioned with identifying and solving a problem.  Others may be formed to advance the practice of a field or a segment of an organization.

Examples Activities: Sharing of best practices, areas to share and co-create content, project management tools, process and procedure documentation, meeting scheduling and documentation, curated resource list, roster of participant profiles.

Communities of Purpose – These communities are formed to advocate for a position or cause.  They are focused on evangelizing an idea by joining members together to plan and create resources to advance a common cause.  A community created to drive enterprise-wide culture change or promoting a new product or service would be examples.

Example Activities: Testimonials and reviews, creation of position statements and white papers, creation and presentation of webinars, defining and evangelizing mission, vision, and principles, training of newcomers and customers/audience, community-based FAQ, curation of lessons learned.

Communities of Interest – These communities are formed to share ideas, best practices, and experiences.  They are focused on advancing concepts and connecting people who share common interests.  Professional communities, customer support communities, and advocacy communities are examples of communities of interest.

Example Activities:  Rating and ranking tools, sharing of expertise/techniques/knowledge, new feeds, media reviews, summaries and photos from in-person activities (meetups, presentations, etc.), polls/surveys, curation of appropriate content, directory of members, games and quizzes to test members and potential members about their knowledge of topic of the community.

Learning Communities – While all communities are in some way about learning, these communities are usually formed for a specific learning experience and are usually closed to invited attendees only.  They can be used especially in situations where the learning experience is focused on soft skills like building trust, negotiating mean, understanding the power of diversity, and dealing with ambiguity.

They can be organized as one of the types listed above or be a combination of all three.

Learning communities are created to provide a safe place for participants to learn, challenge, and fail with each other in order to further their knowledge and skills in a specified area of content.  Participation is limited in order to create a safe environment for experimentation, discovery of new ways of thinking and behaving, practice of new skills, and sharing of opinions and new, incomplete ideas.

Example Activities: sharing of expertise via webinars, links, team challenges, newsfeeds, coaching and mentoring by facilitators and experts, networking, co-creation of content, participant lead teach-back sessions, scenario-based learning, project-based learning, and event-based, experiential learning,

All four types of online communities can serve learning and development outcomes.  Choosing the type of community and establishing where they fit in the characteristic spectrums I’ve discussed varies depending upon the purpose the community is created to fulfill.

In the next four posts, I’ll explore the 4L roles in online communities starting with Linking.

YOUR TURN: What do you think about online communities?  Must they be focused on a purpose?  Are there any other scales of characteristics of communities I should add?  What are your thoughts on my categorization of types of online communities?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Previous posts in the series:

Coming posts in the series:

Yay Teams! The #1 Way of Learning in the Organization

In a new article on Modern Workplace Magazine, Jane Hart reports the latest results of her ongoing survey of worker opinions about the way they learn in the workplace.  The results point to the trend toward more self-reliant learning methodologies.

Jane asked respondents to rate how important each of 10 ways of learning are to them in the workplace.   The ten are:

  • Company training/e-learning

  • Self-directed study of external courses
  • Internal company documents
  • Job aids
  • Knowledge sharing within your team
  • General conversation and meetings with people
  • Personal and professional networks and communities
  • External blogs and news feeds
  • Content curated from external sources
  • Web search for resources (e.g. using Google)

Knowledge Sharing within your team, Web search for resources, Conversations and meetings with people, and Networking and communities are clearly the four top ways identified as important.  L&D can and should leverage these channels for learning.

That the work team is #1 is encouraging.  I believe that creating learning activities to be performed by teams and facilitated by their manager is an untapped channel for learning.  Average to great teams have a high level of trust amongst each other, a common mission, and more contact time with each other than with others in the organization.  The manager can coach/mentor and build the learning objectives into their performance management efforts.  They have common work products to reflect upon and learn from.

I’ve written about how I feel conversations are so important to learning (see Oh, The Conversations We Will Have).  L&D can do more to scaffold conversations around key learning needs of the organization.  “Marketing campaigns” can be used to initiate work of mouth sharing of ideas and concepts.  Special events (ie, meetings) can be arranged to discuss key issues, challenges, or to brainstorm new ideas.  There any number of ways work conversations and meetings can be influenced to be about or include learning experiences.

Helping employees to build their personal, organizational and professional learning networks and communities needs to be a role that L&D embraces.  Helping employees to understand how and why they should be continuously building their networks and joining communities that will help them grow professionally will have benefit in building a learning culture in the organization and in overall capability of the workforce.

Two other interesting results from the survey are that 1) L&D’s bread and butter – face-to-face training and e-learning come in dead last and 2) maybe self-directed learning and content curation might not be as well accepted as some would like to have us believe.

The fact that face-to-face and e-learning come in last isn’t a big surprise.  It’s pretty well understood that L&D needs to look a 1) moving much of learning out of these formats and into more social and informal formats and 2) what content is left that is best delivered via these formats needs to be looked to improve its quality.

While I do have my own reservations about how motivated overworked employees will be to be self-directing in their learning and how many will want to curate content, I also wonder if these two ways of learning may see an upswing in the years to come.  I’m not sure about how many employees 1) know what these ways of learning are or 2) how to learn through them.  Both are very new ideas and how they are best delivered hasn’t settled out yet.


Adaptive LearnERS, not LearnING

In an interview with EdSurge ‘Our Technology Is Our Ideology’: George Siemens on the Future of Digital Learning, George Siemens discusses his belief that the current emphasis amongst edtech companies and universities on better and better adaptive learning tools is a wrong direction.  These tools are helping students to execute learning routines that won’t be needed in the future as machines take on more and more processes for us.  He argues learners need to prepare for careers that employ uniquely human traits like self-regulation and communication. Creativity, complex problem-solving and coordinating with others are examples of the skills needed.  There is greater detail on George’s Blog

But let me tell you about one of my personal stories that led me to believing in this new world of digital, networked learning. Continue reading “Adaptive LearnERS, not LearnING”

Where are the learners?

In a post on, Kali Blunt outlines her Top 4 Reasons Your Workplace Needs Social And Collaborative Learning Technologies.

  1. Support virtual teams
  2. Provide a centralized content repository
  3. The ability to support and track informal as well as formal learning
  4. Connecting people through communities

My second biggest issue with this, and many other justifications for learning technologies (social and non-social), is that the argument is tool and functionality focused.

LMS’s are great because they can track grades and attendance.  I’m sorry, Miss Hull did just fine without an LMS when I was in 4th grade. Continue reading “Where are the learners?”