Data-Driven Collaboration Part 2: Recognizing Personas and Behaviors to Improve Engagement
Chris Slemp

In Part 1 of this series, “Data-Driven Collaboration Design”—a collaboration between Swoop Analytics and Carpool Agency—we demonstrated how data can be used as a diagnostic tool to inform the goals and strategies that drive your business’ internal communication and collaboration.

In this post, we will take that thought one step further and show how, after your course is charted to improve internal communication and collaboration, your data continues to play a vital role in shaping your journey.

Monitoring More Than participation

Only in the very initial stages of the launch of a new Enterprise Social Network (ESN) or group do we pay any attention to how much activity we see. Quickly, we move to watching such metrics as average response time; breadth of participation across the organization, teams, roles, or regions; and whether conversations are crossing those boundaries. We focus on measures that show something much closer to business value and motivate organizations to strengthen communities.

For our purposes in this post, it will be useful to pivot our strategy to one that focuses on influential individuals. The community or team—whether it’s a community of practice, a community of shared interest, or a working team—isn’t a “group” or “si te,” but a collection of individuals, with all the messiness, pride, altruism, and politics implied. Data can be used to layer some purpose and direction over the messiness.

Patterns Become Personas

The Swoop Social Network Analytics dashboard uniquely provides analytics that are customized to each person who is part of an organization’s ESN. Using the principle of “when you can see how you work, you are better placed to change how you work”, the intent is for individual collaborators to receive real-time feedback on their online collaboration patterns so they can respond appropriately in real-time.

We analyzed the individual online collaboration patterns across several organizations and identified a number of distinct trends that reflect the majority of personal collaboration behaviors. With that data, we were able to identify five distinct personas: Observers, Engagers, Catalysts, Responders, and Broadcasters.


In addition to classifying patterns into personas, we developed a means of ranking the preferred personas needed to enhance an organization’s overall collaboration performance. At the top we classify the Engager as a role that can grow and sustain a community or team through their balance of posting and responding. This is closely followed by the Catalyst, who can energize a community by provoking responses and engaging with a broad network of colleagues. The Responder ensures that participants gain feedback, which is an important role in sustaining a community. The Broadcaster is mostly seen as a negative persona: They post content, but tend not to engage in the conversations that are central to productive collaboration. Finally, we have the Observer, who are sometimes also called ‘lurkers’. Observers are seen as a negative persona with respect to collaboration. While they may indeed be achieving individual learning from the contribution of others, they are not explicitly collaborating.

Using Personas to Improve Your Online Collaboration Behavior

Individuals who log in to the Swoop platform are provided with a privacy-protected personal view of their online collaboration behaviors. The user is provided with their persona classification for the selected period, together with the social network of relationships that they have formed through their interactions:


You may notice that the balance between what you receive and what you contribute is central to determining persona classification. Balanced contributions amongst collaboration partners have been shown to be a key characteristic of high performing teams, hence the placement of the ‘Engager’ as the preferred persona.

Our benchmarking of some 35 Yammer installations demonstrates that 71% of participants, on average, are Observers. Of the positive personas, the Catalyst is the most common, followed by Responders, Engagers, and Broadcasters. It’s therefore not surprising that an organization’s priority often involves converting Observers into more active participants. Enrolling Observers into more active personas is a task that falls on the more-active Engagers and Catalysts, with Responders playing a role of keeping them there.

At Carpool, during a recent engagement with a client, we encountered a senior leadership team that was comprised of Broadcasters who relied on traditional internal communications. Through our coaching—all the while showing them data on their own behavior and the engagement of their audience—they have since transformed into Catalysts.

One team, for example, had been recruiting beta testers through more traditional email broadcasts. But after just a few posts in a more interactive and visible environment, where we taught them how to invite an active conversation, they have seen not only the value of more immediate feedback, but a larger turnout for their tests. Now, it’s all we can do to provide them with all the data they’re asking for!

Identifying the Key Players for Building Increased Participation

When Swoop looks at an organization overall, we will typically find that a small number of participants are responsible for the lion’s share of the connecting and networking load. In the social media world, these people are called ‘influencers’ and are typically measured by the size of the audience they can attract. In our Persona characterization, we refer to them as Catalysts. Unlike the world of consumer marketing—and this point is critical—attracting eyeballs is only part of the challenge. In the enterprise, we need people to actively collaborate and produce tangible business outcomes. This can only happen by engaging the audience in active relationship-building and cooperative work. This added dimension of relationship-building is needed to identify who the real key players are.

In our work with clients, Carpool teaches this concept by coaching influencers to focus on being “interested” in the work of others rather than on being “interesting” through the content they share, whether that’s an interesting link or pithy comment. With one client, our strategy is to take an organization’s leader, a solid Engager in the public social media space, and “transplant” him into the internal communications environment where he can not only legitimize the forum, but also model the behavior we want to see.

In the chart below, we show a typical ‘Personal Network Performance’ chart, using Enterprise Social Networking data from the most active participants in an enterprise. The two dimensions broadly capture an individual’s personal network size (number of unique connections) against the depth of relationships they have been able to form with them (number of reciprocated two-way connections). They reflect our Engager persona characteristics. Additionally, we have sized the bubbles by a diversity index assessed by their posting behavior across multiple groups.


The true ‘Key Players’ on this chart can be seen in the top right-hand corner. These individuals have not only been able to attract a large audience, but also engaged with that audience and reciprocated two-way interactions. And the greater their diversity of connections (bubble size), the more effective they are likely to be.

Data like this is useful in identifying current and potential key players and organizational leaders, and helps us shift those online collaboration personas from Catalyst to Engager and scale up as far and as broadly as they can go.

Continuous Coaching

Having data and continuous feedback on your online collaboration performance is one thing, but effectively taking this feedback and using it to build both your online and offline collaboration capability requires planning and, of course, other people to collaborate with! Carpool believes in a phased approach, where change the behavior of a local team, then like ripples in a pond, expand the movement to new ways of working through compelling storytelling, using the data that has driven previous waves of change.

To get started now, think about your own teams. Would you be prepared to have your team share their collaboration performance data and persona classifications? Are you complementing each other, or competing? If that’s a little too aggressive, why not form a “Working Out Loud” circle with some volunteers where you can collectively work on personal goals for personal collaboration capability, sharing, and critiquing one another’s networking performance data as you progress?

Think about what it takes to move from one behavior Persona to another. How would you accomplish such a transformation, personally? What about the teams you work in and with? Then come back for the next, and final, part of this co-authored series between Swoop and Carpool, where we will explain the value in gaining insights from ongoing analytics and the cycle of behavior changes, analysis, and pivoting strategies.