The institutional knowledge that is held in various staff members’ brains is invaluable, and downloading that knowledge onto your Switchboard allows that institutional knowledge to live in perpetuity and be useful for the entire community. War Rooms—a set period of time where multiple stakeholders come together to support posts—are an efficient way of doing this and simultaneously helping your community. It’s a big win and takes little time.
Most War Rooms go anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour; they contain different Switchboard stakeholders (mostly staff that are stakeholders); and most of the time is spent diving into recent posts and helping them in some way. In Switchboard vernacular, we call this “providing traction,” and the idea is to provide a human touch to posts and try to provide a lead that could help the person connect with others around their offer or ask. This is especially true with asks, as there is an inherent vulnerability that users experience when they post an ask to the community. Letting asks slip through the cracks is a negative experience that will most likely demotivate users from returning and participating in the community. Most people posting asks just want to feel like they get somewhere by doing so, which is why War Rooms can be so helpful. We may not be able to perfectly fulfill the ask, or offer, but we can point people in the right direction and give them a lead to follow. If someone feels like they make progress using Switchboard, they’re much more likely to continue engaging over time.
Executing a War Room successfully
Set clear goals for the War Room
The ultimate goal is to provide traction to as many posts that don’t have traction as possible, but other goals beyond that can be helpful too. Some example of clear goals for War Rooms include:
- All attendees comment on at least 2-3 posts (great if there are a lot of attendees)
- All posts within the last month get traction
- All asks from the last 2 months get traction
Effectively searching for posts to support
There are multiple ways to find posts to support during a War Room:
- Start with the most recent post and open posts that simply resonate (whether the post has activity or not).
- Start with the most recent post and open posts in chronological order that don’t have any comments. Posts that have a speech bubble with a number already have comments.
- Use the “Quiet Post” filter to sort the post feed by posts that don’t have any public activity. Click the “More” link in the filters interface to open the extra search filters and then click the “Quiet Posts” indicator.
How to provide traction to posts
People who post are hoping for something to happen with their posts, so every post matters. Switchboard meets your community where they are, so not all posts will be about networking or jobs/internships. For example, a student at Kenyon had their first interaction with the Kenyon Switchboard when they needed a mini fridge. They had success with that post, so they kept up with Switchboard. When they were looking for an internship, they took advantage of some offers on Switchboard. This student ended up getting an internship on Switchboard, but it started with a mini fridge.
- Provide a name (or a few names) of people to connect the asker to. The easiest way to do this is to tag existing Switchboard users using @ in a comment, which notifies the person that was tagged by email so they can reach out to the asker. It also notifies the asker so that person can touch base with the people who were tagged. If you are at a loss of someone to tag, tag a colleague who you think can help provide some traction or someone from the community that you know is really well connected (even if the ask is not directly applicable to them). Again, askers want to see that they are being heard and connected to other people who want/can help. Plus, tagging other people puts the ball in multiple courts simultaneously.
- Provide a resource that the asker may not be aware of. Do not provide general advice to check LinkedIn or Facebook as a resource. These resources are so ubiquitous that it makes stewards look out of touch by suggesting, “Have you tried searching for alumni on LinkedIn/Facebook?” Instead, if there is a specific LinkedIn group or Facebook group that would be of benefit for someone (such as a regional alumni group), putting that resource in a comment can be helpful.
- Cross post the offer somewhere else that will give it a broader audience. LinkedIn and Facebook are two great places to cross-post Switchboard offers, and sometimes the community won’t have access to a LinkedIn/Facebook group that could be helpful for them in casting a wider net.
- Loop in users that have posted asks that are related (whether directly or indirectly) by tagging them in a comment. Sometimes our users aren’t taking macroscopic views of who might be helpful, and we can be really helpful in connecting folks that could derive value from connecting.
- Sometimes a personal recommendation can be helpful if you know the person posting the offer, as it humanizes the post more and adds extra validity to the offer. Plus, it’s a great way to thank someone by earnestly complimenting them.
- Posting the link to an existing post that would helpful to the offer is another great way to interact with offers. Whether it’s a direct connection between the offerer and someone who posted an ask that perfectly fits with the offer, or whether you’re connecting an existing ask with the offer that is sort of related, you’re still providing a chance for people to connect and get traction from their post.
War room events are an amazing time to efficiently support many posts and provide real traction to help people find what they are looking for. The more people that have positive experiences, even if it doesn’t perfectly work out, the more people will return and continue participating on Switchboard in the future. And all it takes most of the time is just someone getting the ball rolling.