Tag Archives: Online Community

Online communities, necessary but better metrics needed to measure success

One topic I found interesting at JiveWorld10 was all the discussions and presentations about communities.  Companies from RIM to Charles Schwab gave some great examples of how they were leveraging Jive Software to develop and manage their communities. However, what was interesting was the fact many of the discussions revolved around the total number of community members and the raw overall growth of the community. Too often what was showcased was the eyeballs that the community had captured. Smelled too much like 1999 when we would hear companies tell us (when I was at Forrester Research) of how many eyeballs they had hitting their web site, how they were growing at such a pace and that they would reach a critical mass of eyeballs…but what did that really mean?

Does it matter if your community has thousands of members, but what are they doing with their community? Similar to the late 1990s this smells like a land grab strategy – go out and grab the eyeballs and then figure out what to do with them. This did not work in the late 90s and it certainly will not work in today’s business. More than ever our cyber attention span is pulled thinner and thinner. At the same time, joining communities and other cyber groups are easier and easier, one or two mouse clicks and voila you are now part of ABC community or XYZ network. You will get push emails or text messages on a regular basis and what will you do? Most likely ignore them. So what does that mean for the company looking to leverage that community?

So we need to measure and highlight better measures for the success and value of a community. Could you leverage financial ratio type measures? Why not? No one looks simply at overall revenue when looking at a company’s finances, that would not give a good overview of the health of a business…I am sure I would have great revenues if I gave everyone a brand new dollar bill for $0.50 back in return, too bad my margins and business would not be so healthy. Ratios like inventory turns or ROI or ROA to measure the health of our business – why not have similar ratios to the health of our communities?

A ratio of unique comments over total members – your community might only have 70 members but have a high rate of comments and discussions. Or percent of members that are active – who have start a conversation or commented over a certain time span. Potentially member click through per postings.

Bottom line, if you are a community manager think about how to  better measure the success and impact of your community. Simple membership numbers is akin to only looking at a company’s revenue figure, does not tell you the true health and success of your organization.

Remember – revenue is vanity, profit is sanity. Determine how that works for your community

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Jive World 2010 – the Social CRM revolution will be tweeted

Last week I was able to go to San Francisco to attend Jive’s annual event – Jive World 2010. For those of you that are not familiar with Jive Software they position themselves as “first in social business.” Basically they provide a platform to allow businesses take the plunge into social media. They allow clients to build collaborative environments for their clients, build blogs, communities and manage collaboration from both an internal and external stand point. Basically they bring together functionality from Facebook, Word Press, Wikipedia and YouTube to name a few onto one platform. Now that is not necessarily a good thing, sometimes when we try to do everything we do nothing well.

The event was very informative, raised some great questions and at times felt like 1999 all over again.

Some thoughts from the event:

  • Lots of discussion about building communities via the Jive platform. Companies from Charles Schwab to RIM talked about how they leveraged the platform to grow their communities. The surprising fact was the large number of firms that were leveraging the platform for internal facing communities. The communities were leveraged for collaboration, idea sharing and simplifying the access to the information captured within a corporation. However this ability to collaborate and share thoughts and ideas seems limited to the safety of a company’s 4 walls. Understandable, I think this reflects companies hesitation to open too much of the proverbial kimono. Clearly there remains great opportunity for companies to start embracing these ideas with external communities.
  • Jive Software is following Picasso’s tenant – “Good artists create, great artists steal.” The UI smells very much like Facebook, the app store…looks like iTunes just to name two examples. Why not! As consumers we have been trained by these consumer applications and why should our behavior change in the work world? Jive is smart enough to not reinvent the wheel. It is interesting to see a continuation of the consumer facing technology leading the way when it comes to delivery method, UI and overall advancement of technology.
  • The exuberance from main stage and the conference was strong. It almost felt like 1999 all over again. Buyer beware. Ok I will admit that I lived through the heady days of the internet revolution and saw the incredible highs – remember NASDAQ 10,000 being a possibility?? I do get a little skeptical when I hear the similar spin…reading about “social media revolution” about to take off …is something that makes me chuckle. Jive is onto something, but at some level it is a continuation of what started with the advent of Netscape. The ability to lower the barriers to communicate, collaborate and interact because of apps, high speed access, mobile and all the other electronic tools that have become a part of our every day lives.

Jive is an interesting play in the market, they deserve a look from anyone that sees collaboration and communities as important to their business…and that is most businesses! Are they the clear cut leader, according to Gartner and Forrester they are a leader but there remains other players to keep an eye on.

I will dive in deeper on some topics that came from the conference:

  • Is privacy dead?
  • How to best measure community success?
  • What does the mobile side of social media mean?

Just some themes that I heard during my time in San Francisco.

If you attended feel free to send me some of your thoughts and ideas!

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To build or not build an online community?

A topic that many companies are gravitating to is the act of building and managing online communities. With tools such as Ning, Facebook, Linkedin as well as “old” online tools like email, the ability for companies to create and manage communities has become a must do for many marketing organizations. However do too many companies rush to create communities before understanding what their goals are for the community?

I have heard on many occasions the following – “We have an online community with 500 members! Success!” or we are starting a Facebook page and have “1000 fans!” Success!! I then ask the question, so what? What are you doing with this group?

Too often that is met with a somewhat blank stare or a simple – well we send them updates and press releases.Okay that is a start but a great opportunity is missed. So a couple of thoughts on good communities:

  1. What is your goal? Okay this seems obvious but too often over looked and not really given enough analysis. Is your goal to bring your existing customers a forum for discussion, do you want to elicit feedback on problems or product usage or have your community assist your product road map. Do you want your community to become a sales tool – have prospects experience a “day with” via the community? You need to be laser focused on what the goal is for your community. Do not feel as if you need to have one catch all community either. You might have a community built around certain verticals you target and cover, around a solution area, geography, or a whole host of other targeted groups. Depending on your goal will depend on who you will want to target to be part of the community.
  2. Who do you want to be in the community? Based on the above, you will need to determine who to target. Is this community open to all or is it targeting a niche audience? Do you want to engage with decision makers, influencers, thought leaders or external pundits? At times in the pursuit of numbers we forget that the quality is more important than the quantity. Clearly understanding the goal of the community will allow you to identify who should be part of that community – who you are targeting as a passive audience and who could be an active audience. Also do not feel as if the majority of the community will need to be actively participating – some might just see it as a source of information, that is fine. However you will want to target some part that can be engaged actively.
  3. What will make your community relevant? Based on the above 2 thoughts, what will make your community relevant and “sticky.” With the deluge of places we can become part of a group, many of us find ourselves part of dozens upon dozens of communities, so what makes a handful stick out? Why do I have to go to that community portal on a regular basis? For example, many professional communities I am a part of on Linkedin offer a job board, great resource! Unfortunately some get so much “spam” – aka “Join this group and learn to work from home!” – type posts it devalues the job board. Other groups I get articles from that are clearly being pushed by a vendor who is seeding the same content on as many groups/communities as it can. What value is that bringing? Before embarking on a community effort, be very clear as to what collateral and content will make it a go to place for your members. Re-purposed press releases will not cut it.
  4. Who is in charge here? This might seem obvious, but too often there is not a member of the marketing team that is responsible for the maintenance, direction, structure and on going leadership of the community. As the old saying goes – you get what you pay for. If you decide to turn over the community to someone who already has a full plate of responsibilities, guess what…community activity will not be what they need to be. If you feel like all you need to do is blindly push content to members – press releases or 3rd party articles to name some blind content – and then wonder why no one is engaging with you actively look at who is in charge. Or not in charge. Your community is just like your PR or AR or IR efforts – a full time job. If you want to maximize the results from that community you need a full time content savvy employee managing the process. This person needs to be given the responsibility to manage this entity with clear goals in mind: get 2 community members to act as sales references, secure 4 by line articles fro community members over the year or secure a 10% increase in membership of people with the X titles – to name some possible goals.

Communities are nothing new, we have had these groups in our personal lives and business lives since the dawn of time. However with new Web 2.0 technologies – Facebook, Linkedin, Ning to name a few – the ability to organize virtually, share thoughts and ideas have never been easier nor as far reaching. However with this comes the added need to ensure the content, value creation and purpose of these communities be clearly defined, constantly worked on and given the proper attention it deserves. Otherwise you will just get a nice mailing list or people that will ignore your emails just like you ignore the emails from a long lost cousin in Asia who wants to give you a percentage of their billionaire father in laws fortune!

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