Social Zombieism – not really dead, but for sure not part of the living either

We’ve seen it before — many times — people start social media initiatives with good intentions, but a large number of them die out due to lack of engagement and participation, among other things. Blogs, wikis, communities — you name it, there are so many examples, and it is as common externally as it is internally.

Let’s call them “social zombies”. Not really dead, but for sure not part of the living either.

Zombies from the movie "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), source:  Wikimedia Commons

Zombies from the movie “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), source: Wikimedia Commons

Take the “Grundfos Water Treatment Training Institute” on LinkedIn for instance. Probably a great initiative when it started in May 2012 to “…exchange wishes, experience and to offer our training program to you and to our customers” with the purpose of… why? It got updated three times, last in June 2012. Since then, nothing. Is it alive, or is it dead? And if dead: why?

Same thing happens internally. There are many examples, for instance communities (in our case mainly groups on our wiki, and Yammer) that have been started by different individuals or teams, so people with a specific interest in a topic can get connected and network, with the purpose of…. why?? There it is again, the “why?”. You see where I’m heading, right?

Purpose, purpose, and even more PURPOSE!
Social Media makes it easy and cheap to “start things”. And yes, it is easy to start things up, but, as you know, people tend to forget that it takes a LOT of hard work and time to make it a success. I’m actually one of these people, although I must say I have gotten better as a grow older and mature as a Digital Immigrant. And in the last 6 months in my new role as Social Business Consultant and Evangelist at Grundfos, I of course must take this even more serious — its now part of my job. And after working more closely with community experts like Thomas Asger Hansen, Martin Risgaard, Stephen Danelutti, and Rachel Happe, I now get it: it’s all down to purpose, purpose, and even more PURPOSE! The more it is aligned to a REAL business objective, and the more CLEAR and SPECIFIC the purpose is, the more chance for success it will have.

And yes, yes, I’m all for experimentation, I live by it (online people, online! Jeez, keep your mind on the topic ;o). But experimentation can start at a small scale, perhaps even time limited, and then be scaled as things move on. Take the previously covered Global Talent Event that we blogged about in May. From the start its purpose was very clear, and it was time limited for that specific event. This means it was easier to get commitment from key stakeholders (even Executives, uuuuhhuuuu…) to participate in the community, since they knew they didn’t have to be there to eternity. The group is now on ice, perhaps it will be used again, perhaps not.

Expanding our Grundfos Global Community
Purpose is as important externally as it is internally. We’ll have to cover the external perspective in a different blog post. Internally, as we gear up to scale and expand our Grundfos Global Community (as I write we currently have 5.800 registered users out of 18.000+ employees) we will do both reactive and proactive activities to mitigate the risk of —  or remove — “social zombies”. Some examples:


  • We will educate and train both novice and expert users in the skills of Community Management
  • From an admin perspective we will continually monitor for “social zombies” and clean-up when necessary
  • Clean-up does not necessarily mean we will delete group. Just renaming them as “Archived” will be enough to set expectations for future visitors (that way it is also still searchable)


  • Again training, especially in Community Management skills, is a very effective way to mitigate future “social zombies”
  • For key use cases (cases where we can see the potential in making an initiative a success, so it can be used as a best practice) we will also provide 1-2-1 coaching and purpose workshops. We have done this already, with great success.
  • The challenge with the above (1-2-1 and purpose workshop) is of course that we will have a problem with scaling. There is no way we will be able to help everyone in Grundfos this way, so we also have to think self-help. We have therefore produced our first Grundfos Community Planning Guide.

The Grundfos Community Planning Guide
Let’s dwell on this one for a minute or two. A classic non-purpose that we often run in to is: “We need more collaboration and networking between people.” This is just not specific enough. The community should tackle a real business challenge and have a tangible outcome that can be measured. This is what everyone starting a community must understand. Based on discussions with our Personal Yammer Coach, Stephen D., and our own experiences, a simple planning process has emerged. This process is both valuable for a workshop, but can also be used by individuals by them self. The steps are:

The Grundfos Global Community Planning Process

Each step is documented in the presentation embedded from SlideShare below. On the last slide of the guide you will find a list of “Principles of Successful Community Initiatives” which perhaps is of interest. Among others here are some key points:

  • Clearly state the value for employees participating (“What’s In It For Me?”)
  • Every member must know what they should and can do to contribute (Normal vs. New Normal)
  • Dedicated Community Manager(s) for consistent communication and support

Inspiration and feedback
Will this help us fight “social zombieism”? Well we will see, but we believe it will. This is version 1, and as we start using it and communicate it to the Grundfos community the process and the material will of course evolve. Perhaps it will evolve into an online tool one day, with step by step coaching planning help (we’ll come back with a more detailed post on this). You are welcome to use the guide yourself for inspiration. Or even better, help us improve it! If you have your own process and methods, I’d be very interested in learning how you see things.

/ / / Christian (add a comment to the blog or contact me on Twitter or

Social Business Lead Consultant at Grundfos

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Posted in Adoption, Barriers and challenges, Culture, Platform and tools, Policy

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