Wired Pursuits

Archive for October 2008

A recent study by Deloitte, Beeline Labs, and the Society of New Communications Research asked over 140 organizations (B2B, B2C, NPOs) about objectives, success factors, and management of their online co­mmunities. Here’s a summary of what they found.

Meeting objectives.

Online communities were the most successful at:

  • Generating more word of mouth
  • Increasing product/brand awareness
  • Increasing customer loyalty
  • Bringing outside ideas into the organization

Key success factors.

Not surprisingly the factors that contributed most to success where also what makes off line communities successful. Specifically:

  • Connecting like-minded people
  • The ability to help others
  • Focusing on a hot topic or issue
  • The quality of the community manager or team

Biggest obstacles.

The biggest obstacles to making communities work were:

  • Getting people engaged
  • Finding enough time to manage the community
  • Attracting people to the community

Biggest surprises.

Some unexpected benefits:

  • Our market will tell us what they want if we just ask
  • Our customers are happy that we are reaching out
  • The ideas generated by the community

Best advice.

If you’re thinking about going down this path:

  • Get commitment from the top
  • Start with the business strategy (amen to that)
  • Start slow
  • Content is king (double amen)
  • Participate, do not control – the community doesn’t belong to you.
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­Good advice back in 1999 that’s still relevant today.

“Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.”

The Cluetrain Manifesto

­Many B2B companies are looking into whether they should leverage communities as part of their marketing strategy.  Whether your objective is to create a closer connection to your customers, connect customers to each other, or explore new ideas, it’s important to build communities around something people are already interested in.

So how can you know in advance if people will be interested?

It’s likely you’ll never really know what the response will be until you try, but I did hear a great tip in a podcast the other day about looking at what your buyers are already doing offline and moving those communities online.  It’s a great idea, so I started thinking how we could leverage that idea for our clients.

How do I pick the right topic to explore?

Start by identifying regularly scheduled industry events or meetings where your buyers get together to discuss topics of interest.  These can be centered around topics or specific roles.  Don’t forget to look at local and regional meetings too.  Heck, you likely already participate in some of these meetings.

Next, ask yourself:

  • Which group would benefit the most from real-time, more frequent communications?
  • Which group discusses topics that are I/my company can add value to?
  • Which groups do I already have a connection with?

Prioritize the list, then start exploring the benefits an online community would bring to the participants.  There must be a clear benefit to the participants or you won’t succeed.

If you can sync the group’s objectives with your company’s objectives you’re more likely to have a winning topic.

For those of you who’ve already started online communities, how did you go about selecting and audience or topic?

As I was standing in line at Starbucks this morning, I dawned on me; it’s just like social media. Here’s how:

  1. ­There’s a short, but necessary, learning curve to understand how to communicate properly (venti, misto, etc.).
  2. There are regulars you see every time and others who pop in occasionally.
  3. It attracts all types of people (some louder than others).
  4. You can drum up business or just talk with friends.
  5. All of a sudden they’re everywhere you turn and more are popping up every day.
  6. If you don’t know the “process” the regulars can get a bit testy and they’ll let you know what you’re doing wrong.
  7. It’s the experience that makes it unique.
  8. Once you experienced it, you’ll get hooked.
  9. Once you get hooked, you’ll find yourself thinking about the next time you can go.
  10. You’ll likely tell a friend and get them hooked too.
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