A recent benchmarking report from Demand Metric on Customer Lifecycle Marketing illustrates the impact of aligning marketing efforts around a customer journey model. The report also illustrates a number of blindspots that are derailing Customer Lifecycle Marketing efforts.
The missing ingredient? Community Management.
First, highlights from the report (direct quote):
The analysis of this study’s data provides these key findings:
- The study found that less than 20% of organizations are currently marketing across the entire customer lifecycle.
- Participants spend twice as much of their marketing budgets on acquiring new customers as on retaining existing ones. (Yet most of their revenue comes from existing customers!)
- Almost 90% of the study participants indicate that marketing currently owns the understanding and management of the customer lifecycle.
- Of the lifecycle stages – Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention and Advocacy – Awareness enjoys the greatest clarity of ownership, with marketing owning the stage 88% of the time. Retention is most fragmented, with few organizations defining clear ownership of this stage.
- The Awareness and Consideration stages enjoy “adequate” or “ample” levels of investment for over 70% of study participants. Retention and Advocacy both fall at the “minimal” to “none” level of funding for 55% of study participants.
- The greatest benefit to executing a customer lifecycle marketing strategy is greater customer engagement.
- The greatest challenge to marketing across the customer lifecycle is understanding customer content needs.
- 72% of strategy adherents are experiencing a revenue lift from customer lifecycle marketing.
- Over three-fourths of participants plan to increase their commitment to and investment in customer lifecycle marketing.
Clearly Customer Lifecycle Marketing is incredibly valuable when all stages of the lifecycle are addressed. So what is the problem? Based on my direct experience and years of studying the intersection of marketing and online community, I would assert that building meaningful relationships at scale is still an undeveloped function in the majority of most organizations. Further, as the data from the report shows, the “ownership” for customer retention is scattered among many departments. Add to the mix the eternal debate about “who owns social / community” and things get even more messy.
So what is a modern marketing organization to do? Consider three things:
- Community Drives Customer Lifecycle
A modern definition of online communities expands the location of “community” to be any on or offline touchpoint where customers can meet and form relationships. A modern definition also expands the concept of community management to include any form of relationship building and nurturing. Modern online communities produce a range of value for customers and businesses. Peer to peer support is the classic example, yet modern approaches include a range of deep collaboration on new product development to expansive crowdfunding campaigns – and everything in between. Community can play a valuable role in every stage of the customer lifecycle, and can often be the connective tissue to hold the entire experience together.
- Treat Engagement & Retention as a Community Management Opportunity
The practice of building and nurturing customer relationships is a job modern community managers understand very well. In particular, Community Managers can be very effective as resources in Customer Nurture campaigns during the consideration phase. I had my community management team at Autodesk reboot a nurture campaign that supported a 30 day product trial, and the results were amazing.
Further, Customer Advocacy programs grew (at least partially) out of Community Advocate / MVP programs. It is a relatively straightforward process to scale current Advocacy programs to include different customer types. There is also a massive opportunity to harmonize Influencer programs (which typically look outside of existing communities) with Advocacy programs. These are essentially two sides of the same coin – Advocates have typically been nurtured through a hosted community and Influencers have established their own communities and networks. A modern Community Manager treats these contexts as part of the larger community ecosystem.
Treating engagement and retention as a community management opportunity allows the staff with the skills to manage relationships at scale do what they do best. This is a huge missed opportunity in marketing.
- Get Real About Digital Transformation & Social Business
A modern approach to online community takes into account the entire digital ecosystem, not just single online touchpoints. A modern approach to community management nurtures engagement across the digital ecosystem. So if Community Managers know how to address the key gaps illustrated in the Demand Metric report, what’s the problem? Why isn’t it happening? There are many answers, but one factor that has had a huge negative impact is the trend of Digital Transformation initiatives absorbing (or in some cases, abandoning) Social Business efforts. I expand on (and in some ways, rant about) this in my 2015 recap post. Most Digital Transformation initiatives have focused on technology at the cost of customer engagement. Many Social Leadership teams and organizations have been disbanded or fractured and embedded to the point of being ineffective. Customer Experience initiatives often focus on superficial and in the moment customer engagements at the cost of growing the life long relationship.Bottom Line: We need a new Leadership model that addresses not only the Company : Customer relationship but also the complex network of Customer : Customers : Company relationships.
Netting it out:
- To create successful Customer Lifecycle Marketing initiatives, modern marketers must include online community and community managers.
- Community Managers can help address the current engagement and retention gaps in Customer Lifecycle Marketing programs.
- Organizations need to renew focus and investment in Online Community Leadership to drive growth via Customer Lifecycle Marketing
I am working with a portfolio of clients on evolving their community and marketing programs (lifecycle, influencer & advocacy, community management). I am also kicking off the year by offering a complimentary consultation session (for a limited time & very limited slots). If you would like to get feedback and guidance on your 2016 plans, feel free to register for a consultation here.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to do this. I’m already rolling eyes at all the “prediction” posts. And there are way too many 2015 retrospectives to look back on… but I’m feeling optimistic and inspired! You are taking the time to read this – THANK YOU! I have had an incredible amount of support for my first year of Structure3C. Thank you for being part of it.
This is a long-ish post – the short version is a list of personal highlights from 2015, and a look ahead to 3 big ideas and aspirations for 2016.
A Look back at the first year of Structure3C
Thank you for letting me take a moment to reflect on a few key accomplishments from this year.
- Launching Structure3C on February 4, 2015 to help brands create successful customer communities and crowdsourcing initiatives
- Chairing the inaugural Collaborative Economy conference in San Francisco in March
- Conducting the first research study on Brands & The Collaborative Economy – exploring a range of organizations level of knowledge, interest, priority and current activities in the Collaborative Economy
- Having a number of prominent speaking engagements, including SxSWi, Social Business Forum 2015 (Milan), The Silicon Valley Boomer Business Summit and Crowdsourcing Week Europe (Brussels)
- Helping a growing portfolio of brand and startup clients with briefings, crowdsourcing strategy, online community development and product design
- Being interviewed by Virgin Entrepreneur on Crowdsourcing
- Holding the closing workshop at the Crowd Companies 2015 Main Event in SF – (you can download my custom workbook from the event)
- Being honored as one of the inaugural A. Barry Rand Fellows for the Life Reimagined Institute
- And on a personal note: I made a commitment to my family to be present more throughout the year – one lagging indicator of success is the number of pancakes and pieces of french toast made in 2015 numbers just shy of 1,000! (disclaimer: back of the napkin calculation)
3 Big Ideas for 2016:
1.) Beyond “Digital Transformation”
In 2015, it seemed like Digital Transformation ate the business world. Almost overnight, the big consultancies dropped “Social Business” and began to sell Digital Transformation strategies. Thought leaders and former champions of social published articles and books about establishing, then disrupting “Digital Business”. Former Social Centers of Excellence were abandoned or repurposed for the “new” digital business journey.
In some ways, this is completely logical. Big consultancies need to keep clients anxious and their armies of consultants employed. Thought leaders need a constant stream of new terms, concepts and frames to stay relevant and top of mind. Executives need to frame annual objectives in ways that are novel and show progress year over year.
And, let’s face it: Social, Community, Customer Collaboration are all hard. Really hard.
Obviously, technology plays a critical role in modern business. The problem with many Digital Transformation efforts is a hyperfocus on the technology at the cost strategy and customer relationships.
Further, the definition of “Social Business” was always somewhat nebulous, and the internal culture shift and alignment needed to be successful was an arduous task. Pursuing a primarily technology-driven agenda likely seems more attainable, and “Digital” is an easier sell – both the perceived value and anticipated results.
What is lost in the shift from social to digital is the opportunity to fully realize the business value of connected customer relationships at scale. Realized specifically through strategies based on networks, communities and deep collaboration. Sound nebulous? I’ve shaped and seen first hand the value of social and community in the form of increased direct revenue, increased loyalty, crowd driven products and early market dominance based on building communities in parallel with products. Examples: The quantified value of Dell’s IdeaStorm was in the hundred’s of millions of dollars, Dell’s TechCenter community had billions of dollars in impact on Large Enterprise sales, Autodesk’s support community saves the company millions of dollars a year… I could go on.
2.) Digital / Social Business reframed as Business, Networked
Based on my experience building online communities and collaborative experiences, as well as research I’ve conducted, I’m convinced that a new and comprehensive approach to online communities is the way forward.
An approach where:
- What we thought of as “social” is really the networked marketplace
- Your market is synonymous with your crowd
- Online communities build lasting relationships amongst your customers, prospects, employees and partners and
- Collaboration looks like a true partnership with customers, not an internal social network no one really uses.
In order to begin exploring business opportunities in the networked economy, businesses need to shift their mindset to think about markets as networks. Their total addressable market(s), connected via platforms & social networks.
There are three important contexts to think about in the Network Marketplace:
- Crowd: A group within a Market Network that has:
- A shared interest or goal
- The ability and assets to participate in a shared marketplace, task or activity via common platforms
- Community A connected & hosted group within a Market Network that has:
- 1 or more shared interests or goals, leading to shared identity & purpose
- The ability, motivation and assets to work towards a common purpose over time
- A host with intention to support & manage community over time
- Collaborative Organization Collaboration amongst organizations, partners and customers essentially functioning as one organization:
- Shared IP & Common resources
- Shared vision of activities and outcomes
- Shared risks and equitable outcomes
3.) Radical New Leadership
To truly make progress in the evolving online community strategy we need new leadership, and evolved (not incremental) vision. This requires a shift from quarterly-driven decision making by businesses and a “sell what we have” mentality from our collective social vendors. Specifically:
- A new function that owns customer experience across every touchpoint – and further – owns developing the 1:Many relationships in the market network, not just 1:1
- A new Executive to lead this function
- Integration of platforms, systems and customer data that create internal efficiencies, better customer experiences, and put the customer in control of their experience, relationships and data
- A new point of view on value, and specifically, the value of customer engagement and participation. The days of customers supporting other customers without compensation are coming to an end.
- We need a bolder vision for online community platforms and social media & network tools. Platforms now are: 1) optimized around specific functions, like peer to peer support 2) are incredibly hard to customize and 3) are incredibly hard to integrate. We need better from you.
- Reign in sales-driven organizations that over-promise and under-deliver on community quality and outcomes.
- We need vendors to come together on feature & data standards and interoperability. Just to pick a specific example: The current disconnect between CRM, Marketing Automation and Community Platforms (even from the SAME vendor) is unbelievable. Invest in fixing it.
- You need something new to talk about and sell. I get it. I humbly ask:
- Connect the dots between your concepts, especially when retiring an old concept for a new one.
- Talk to your peers in the industry when selling new ideas so clients aren’t dealing with 10 flavors of the same burning platform concept.
- Show your source data when you have it.
- Attribution is appreciated. Especially for concepts you are essentially recycling.
- Show you really care about the future of the industry by cooperating on standard definitions, benchmarks and training
- Try to coordinate conference data and overarching themes
- When collecting practice data you intend to use for consulting or products, please provide a disclaimer at point of collection.
Do you agree? What would you add to this list?
With that said, 2016 is shaping up to be even more fun.
A preview includes:
- An upcoming announcement for a series of Crowd Economy “Rapid Orientation Workshops”
- Select speaking engagements focused on describing a Modern Approach to Online Community Building by developing Market Networks
- Ongoing research into how Brands continue to evolve their Crowd and Community business strategies
- An expanded set of consulting offerings, including modules for leadership & team development, value / ROI analysis and scorecard development.
Should we talk? I’m offering a limited number of free introductory consultations (via phone). I’d love to learn more about your community & crowd plans for 2016, and I promise your will take away new ideas from our call.
In the spirit of the New Year, I wish you a peaceful and epic 2016. Thank you for helping make Structure3C ‘s first year a success!
There seems to be a wave of bad advice and misguided thinking regarding where and how brands should engage with their communities. Examples include pundits advising brands to prioritize social efforts “off domain”, being passive observers in their communities instead of active hosts, and a general sentiment that hosting a brand-based online community is high effort and low return.
This is really unfortunate, as I’m convinced many organizations are missing key opportunities to realize value from online communities. The reasons for the bad advice and thinking are myriad and may include legitimate causes like: steady pressure from a slowly recovering economy, increased demands for customer attention online and competition for prioritization amongst a growing list of places to play in social media. Unfortunately, the lack of direct experience and ego play a role as well.
So, what’s at stake? Your network of customer relationships. Said another way: you can rent this network on Facebook (along with other tenants), or you can make the investment in hosting, growing and managing the network yourself. Renting is cheaper in the short term. Building and hosting the network creates a business asset that is generative in value if managed properly.
The Role of Host
When I say “host”, I am specifically talking about on-domain, brand-hosted communities that are built on a community platform (like Lithium or Jive) and housed under the brand’s domain. Examples include Autodesk’s AREA, SAP’s Community Network , Dell’s TechCenter and Lego’s CUUSO . The value of these communities is multi-dimensional, but hosted brand communities are generally a “clean, well-lit place” for a company to:
- offer customers peer to peer support, lowering support costs and increasing customer satisfaction;
- co-develop product and service ideas with customers, lowering research costs and creating products with a built in market;
- give special access to and content from insiders (like product developers) in the company, increasing the value of the community for members;
- share special content to enhance the use of (or use in) the products;
- discuss improvements or extensions to products and services;
- facilitate niche communities of practice around specializations;
to name just a few in the long list of possible activities that produce value for both the brand and community members.
Being a Good Host
The web is littered with failed attempts by brands trying to kickstart communities. Many remind me of the famous Bette Midler quote “but enough about me… what do YOU think about me”. Many early failures hit the wall simply because they made the simple mistake of being selfish. Brands need to be able to come up with a simple value equation as part of the strategic development process for community that accounts for both their business needs as well as that of the community member. If both parties can’t win, there is really no sense in playing. I offer the examples I gave earlier as proof that this can be done – Lego, Autodesk, Dell and others have been and are successful in their efforts. A few reminders on etiquette for being a good host (and there are many others):
- Be present and attentive
Ensure that staff are available to participate, answer questions and respond to feedback.
- Be engaged
Actively manage the community, ensuring basic moderation is happening and that there is a regular cadence of content and activity.
- Be respectful
Ensure that communications, content and activities are geared towards shared value, vs one-sided discussions about the host organization. Being respectful goes beyond generally being civil and includes the expectation that the community hosts will form relationships with members and support the community over the lang haul.
Brands as Networks
One definition of brand is “the collectively held perceptions about an organization shared amongst its stakeholders”. I find this fascinating because the statement implies that a brand can’t manifest unless it is in a networked environment. Brands need networks in order to exist. Online (and offline) Communities are a living, breathing expression of a brand.
- Online Communities should be a focal point of brands social strategy, and a “center of gravity” for social presence;
- Brands should not shy away from the role of active community host – it’s not an option, it’s a responsibility
- To be a good Community host, approach the task with the attitude that *everybody can win* instead of a zero sum game of Brand vs Customers
My theory on Unconferences (and other participant-driven events) is pretty simple: put smart and passionate people in a room to talk about a common cause with some light facilitation and good things generally happen. Along with all the great knowledge-sharing and network-building that typically happens, an Unconference can be one of the key catalysts for the culture change needed to evolve to a more social business: a day of suspended organizational hierarchy, authentic communication (no PPTs), collaboration, learning and relationship development.
I’ve been a huge believer in participant-driven events since I started hosting Online Community Roundtables in the summer of 1995, and I was first introduced to the concept of an Unconference by Jim Cashel of Forum One a couple of years later. I went on to work for Jim and host a series of Unconferences about Social Media and Online Community. When I came to work at Dell, I saw an opportunity to do an Unconference series as a compliment to our social media training and strategy development efforts.
At Dell, we’ve hosted 5 SMaC Talk Unconference events globally, with locations including Dell HQ in Round Rock, TX, Bangalore, Xiamen and London over the last 18 months, with thousands of Dell employees representing most departments and all levels in the organization participating. Michael Dell even came to close our very first Unconference event – we are clearly invested in the format as an organization.
When I facilitate the events, I promise participants two key things:
1. They will leave the event with a long list of new ideas to put into practice immediatly, and
2. They will leave the event with an extended network of practitioners to collaborate with, learn from and gain support from in their day to day efforts.
So, what is an Unconference?
An Unconference is a participant-driven event, where the attendees actually create the agenda. The methodology to create and facilitate an Unconference is drawn from Open Space Technology – a methodology first developed by Harrison Owen and subsequently shaped by the global community of facilitators.
An Unconference (or Open Space event) differs radically from a traditional conference in a number of different ways, including:
- Attendees are responsible for creating the agenda
- Speakers and sessions are not pre-programmed (although they do relate to the Unconferences theme)
- The agenda is malleable – sessions can be suggested or changed throughout the day
- After the agenda is set, the day is self guided – attendees are personally responsibility for getting the most out of the day
So, how does this Unconference thing work? The intention of the Open Space format is to remove the constraints and restrictions of “normal” conferences and to allow maximum creative thinking.
One of the most amazing parts of the day is the topic selection process. At the start of the morning, any attendee who wishes can come forward, announce a topic, and claim one of the ~50+ open slots on the grid.
Attendees announce session topics
The agenda begins to form
Within about 35-40 minutes the grid fills up with topics
Once all the topics are announced, we begin the Unconference sessions. The agenda grid plays the role of gathering place and ideamarketplace throughout the day, as attendees come back to the agenda to check for any updates, changes, or new sessions.
How can Unconference be used in the Enterprise?
Unconferences tend to be very effective when there is a large group of knowledgeable people struggling with a complex problem set. Although we’ve primarily used Unconferences for discussions of social media and social business, other likely topics in a large enterprise could be Sustainability, Change Management, Product Development or Brand re-engineering / relaunch.
The Net: An Unconference (using Open Space Technology) can be a great tool for your organization, bringing together diverse groups of people to collaborate and network around common organisational goals. Participants will leave the event with new ideas, new energy, new connections and shared vision and purpose.
Open Space Technology – By Harrison Owen
OpenSpaceWorld – A community about Open Space Technology
We’re just about 2 weeks away from our 8th annual Online Community Summit in Sonoma, CA, on October 8-9. We have a fantastic speaker and session line-up that I’ve detailed out below.
If you’d like to attend the Summit and you’re a senior online community or social media practitioner, please go here to request an invitation. There are limited tickets still available.
Please note: We restrict attendance of platform and service vendors to those sponsoring the event. If you would like information about sponsoring, please email me.
Check out the event site here for more information.
We have a great group of folks coming, including: Answers.com, Apple, Autodesk, Inc., Cisco, CNN, GlobalGiving, Moshi Monsters, Edutopia, LinkedIn, American Legacy Foundation, SEGA of America, Time Inc. Lifestyle Digital, WestEd, TripAdvisor, Dell, Executive Networks, Inc., Microsoft, REI, Care2.com, Stupski Foundation, The MathWorks, and more.
Thursday, October 8th
8:00 – 9:00: Registration / Breakfast
9:00 – 10:00: Introductions & Welcome
Bill Johnston – Chief Community Officer, Forum One Networks
Joi Podgorny – Head of Community, Mindcandy
10:00 – 11:00: Session 1 /Turning to the Crowd: Ideas and Contest Sites
How can you generate great ideas and enthusiasm for your organization at low cost?
Session Lead: Anil Rathi, Idea Crossing
Session Lead: Ryan Wilson, XPrize
11:00 – 11:30: Break
11:30 – 12:30: Session 2 / What You Need to Know About the Mobile Communities Revolution
As mobile usage explodes, the importance of mobile communities is increasing dramatically. We’ll review experiences from Obama to Armani to the American Cancer Society and demonstrate the coming wave of change that will impact your organization.
Session Lead: Kevin Bertram, Distributive Networks
Session Lead: Miles Orkin, America Cancer Society
12:30 – 1:30: Lunch
1:30 – 2:30: Session 3 / Social Marketing & Advertising
Communities and traditional forms of marketing and advertising have historically acted like oil and water. Progress is being made by innovative organizations that involve the community in feedback, permission-based programs and even advertising creation.
Session Lead: Paul Levine, Current.com
Session Lead: Bruce Smith, Answers.com
2:30 – 3:30: Session 4 / Break Out Sessions
3:30 – 4:00: Break
4:00 – 5:00: Session 5 / News Communities
While the importance of PR and marketing hasnʼt changed, the ways to influence major news sites has transformed radically. Weʼll discuss the news landscape and what it means for your organization.
Session Lead: Lila King – CNN.com
Session Lead: Chris Tolles – Topix.net
Friday, October 9th
8:00 – 9:00: Registration / Breakfast
8:00 – 9:00: Community and Good Ideas Demos (open podium)
9:00 – 10:00: Session 6 / Social “ME”dia: Employees as Advocates
How does an organization combine employee passion with social media tools to meet organization goals?
Session Lead: Erika Kuhl, Salesforce.com
Session Lead: Lucia Willow – Pandora.com
10:00 – 11:00: Session 7: / Break Out Sessions
11:00 – 11:30: Break
11:30 – 12:30: Session 8: Operationalizing Social Media – Reshaping the Organization
As social media and community programs move form short term, tactical engagements to longer-term business strategies, organizations must transform to take full advantage of the possibilities. Hear about the topography of the “social organization” from our panel of experts leading the charge to transform their organizations via social media.
Moderator: Rachel Makool, Makool Consulting
Panelist: Larry Blumenthal, Robert Wood Johnson
Panelist: Dawn Lacallade, Solar Winds
Panelist: Jordan Williams, REI
12:30 – 1:00 Conference Close and Wrap up
Some of the current attendees include community and social media practitioners from leading companies including: Apple, GlobalGiving, Autodesk, Inc., Leadership Corps, Moshi Monsters, Edutopia, LinkedIn, American Legacy Foundation, SEGA of America, Time Inc. Lifestyle Digital, WestEd, TripAdvisor, Dell, Inc., Answers Corporation, Executive Networks, Inc., Microsoft, REI, Care2.com, Stupski Foundation, and The MathWorks, Inc.
Online Communities: Thriving in the Economic Downturn Webinar
A FREE webinar sponsored by Forum One Networks
May 7, 2009 @ 11:00 am PDT
Register here: http://thrivesurvive-rpm.eventbrite.com
The economy is in a state of flux, but interest in and use of online communities and social media has never been higher. Hear from a panel of experienced community executives about how they are guiding their community-based businesses through the economic challenges, and hear about the opportunities they see on the horizon.
I’ll be leading an incredible panel that includes Thor Muller of Satisfaction, Chris Kenton of SocialRep and Scott Wilder of Intuit for an in-depth discussion around social media and online community strategies and tactics for surviving and thriving in the economic downturn. Session highlights will include:
– Buffalo culture as a new metaphor for your online business
– How stakeholder attitudes are changing in light of economic pressures
– Why solid community engagement strategies have never been more important (or valuable)
– Rethinking “ROI”
– Advice on how to navigate the downturn
– Budget & staffing implications during the downturn
Please note: Attendance is limited to 200 people. Register early to reserve your spot!
Thor Muller – CEO & Co-founder, Satisfaction
Thor Muller is CEO & Co-founder of Satisfaction, a startup delivering “people-powered customer service for absolutely everything.”
He is also the co-founder and former Managing Director of Rubyred Labs, a San Francisco-based web apps firm. Since its founding in 2005, Rubyred has developed social software for a range of startups and leading portals.
Prior to Rubyred, Thor was a first generation Web entrepreneur, creating Web success stories for companies such as Yahoo, Dell, Bank of America, Intel, Virgin Records, Fujitsu, Discovery Channel, and Sony. In 1995, he started and ran one of the early Web development boutiques, Prophet Communications, later acquired by Frog Design where he served as VP Digital Media. He subsequently founded Trapezo, a venture-funded company that made Web software for syndicating content, acquired by Perfect Commerce in 2002.
Christopher Kenton – CEO & Founder, SocialRep
Christopher Kenton is founder and CEO of the enterprise social media SaaS startup SocialRep, and cofounder and consulting partner at MotiveLab a social media marketing agency. Chris was formerly Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at the Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) Council, and its corporate parent, the international PR firm GlobalFluency, where he managed global business development, client consulting services and program development for business communities including the CMO Council, the Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum and the Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME).
With an extensive background in strategic marketing and software development, Chris specializes in market development, competitive positioning, marketing effectiveness and measurement, with a special emphasis on marketing technology and social media.
Scott K. Wilder, Group Manager, Intuit
Scott K. Wilder is currently the Group Manager of Intuit’s QuickBooks Online Community and User-Collaboration Web site. Previously, he served as Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at KBtoys.com and eToys. He also has held numerous senior management positions at America Online, Apple Computer, Borders.com, and American Express. While working at America Online, Scott helped create the first Web-based online advertisement and commercial Web site. Wilder has a Master degrees from The Johns Hopkins University, The New York University Leonard Stern School of Business and Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Program.
Current attendees include: Google, Edelman, Ebay, Consumer Reports, Deutsche Telekom, iVillage, and others.
To register at the early bird rate of $145 ($195 after 1/19) please go here:
Last year’s Unconference East was fantastic, and we expect this years to be even better. We had an amazing group in 2008, including:
AOL, MTV, Consumers Union (consumer reports), Cyworld, Business Week, Socialtext, IBM, Mzinga, Spinvox, Twing.com, Salon.com, Harvard Business, MediaBistro, KickApps, HP, TV Guide and Zagat.com.
We also had an amazing list of sessions, including:
– What is necessary to start a successful social network?
– Social Movements/Communities with a Cause:
– Enterprise And Large Organizations Meets Community
– User Managed Communities: where users make the rules
– Community Building: Resources and Considerations
– Virtual Goods 101
– Social Media Optimization
– Customer/Consumer Communities for Co-Innovation
– Twitter Strategies for the Enterprise
– Culture vs. Community: Intention-based content
– Community Analytics: measuring success & failure
– Social Networks: Likes/dislikes and what you want to know
– Virtual Goods and Virtual World Interactions
– Building Enterprise IT: Colloboration & interface to internal systems (using wikis)
– Open ID & other user-centric identity technologies (Higgins, Infocards, SAML)
You can see pictures from the 2008 Unconference here:
OCU East 2008 Wiki
The wiki is available if you would like to read the session notes:
Again, to register at the early bird rate of $145 ($195 after 1/19) please go here:
If you currently drive the community or social media strategy for your organization, and you are in (or will be in) the NYC area on 2/11, I would encourage you to come check it out!
We also have several sponsor opportunities open for this Unconference. If you are looking for a cost-effective way to reach NYC community and social media professionals, please contact me about our sponsorship options.
Steve Rubel had an interesting post this morning, titled “Historically, Most Online Communities Haven’t Stuck”
Only a handful of community sites over the last dozen years have had staying power. If you study them you’ll find moats to protect them from competitors and fickle users. These barriers to entry include peer-to-peer commerce (in the case of Edelman client eBay), robust user reviews (Amazon.com) and deep entrenchment in vertical markets (BlackPlanet.com).
I think the spirit of Rubel’s post rings true, and I think that in general he was trying to make the statement “don’t bet the farm on Facebook”, but I think the post misses the mark on a couple of points.
First, (as commenters like David Binkowski state) there is a difference between an online community destination and an online community. Many communities of practice, interest and support travel from destination to destination over time.
Second, I’m not convinced that most marketing and PR firms are best suited to mediate long-term relationship building between companies and online communities. I say this with the utmost respect to both Steve (whose blog and twitter feed I read daily) and his firm Edelman. I think that if the “center of gravity” for community building and engagement isn’t internal to an organization, that organization’s efforts are likely in a lot of trouble.
I think John Hagel did a great job in his Community 2.0 post of assessing the community-related carnage of the bubble, and setting expectations for the period we are currently in online:
I am deeply encouraged about the commercial prospects for virtual community. When I published Net Gain ten years ago, it unleashed a huge wave of investment – there was a period in 1998 when virtually every business plan submitted to VCs in Silicon Valley claimed to be establishing a virtual community.
Of course, few of these ventures were actually virtual communities and even fewer had any real understanding of what was required to build sustainable virtual communities. As a result, much of this investment was wasted, consistent with the broader pattern of the dot com bubble. An inevitable backlash set in – virtual community became a suspect term. Lots of interesting initiatives continued to be pursued under the radar screen without much publicity or visibility, but helping to build skill sets, experience and performance results.
The net? Communities that don’t provide value, don’t stick. Those that do will grow and evolve. And there will be a lot more than a few.
Our Online Community Research Network (http://www.onlinecommunityresearch.com) initiated the The Marketing & Online Community research study in June of 2007. The study explored the current state of marketing to online communities, from the perspective of both the online community host, as well as from the perspective of the marketer.
The research participants included large software companies, large community destination sites, niche community sites, platform providers and interactive marketing and advertising firms.
We discovered early on in the research process that while community hosts and practitioners were willing to share their experiences, most marketers were not. At the beginning of the research I conducted several in-person interviews, it became clear that most marketing and advertising agencies have not met with great success in their community marketing efforts, and are unwilling to talk about their experiences. What limited success marketers have had is generally viewed as proprietary knowledge within the agency, and is closely guarded.
I’ve included excerpts from the report below. To download the full report, please go here (short registration required).
What are the biggest challenges you face working with third-party marketers?
It is clear from the survey responses that most online community hosts are still negotiating the relationship with third-party marketers, their messages, and their methodologies.
The main challenges in working with third-party marketers included:
• Third-party marketers want to control content/context in which their ad will be shown.
• Difficulty matching ads with content
• Overhead associated with helping marketer understand community culture
• The lack of a pre-screened third-party ad network
• Marketers seem to have no affinity with community / company brand
• Advertiser push invasive or unusual advertising to get results
• Difficult to determine fair rate and cost basis
What general advice would you give a colleague that was considering incorporating marketing and advertising into their community?
Respondents shared valuable advice about incorporating marketing and advertising activities into communities, from their direct experiences.
• When introducing marketing messages into your community, be very cautious and attentive to your member reactions, and open to their feedback
• Understand your audiences needs and sensitivities to advertising messages
• Establishing a good relationship with the agency account manager is key
• Establish creative and messaging guidelines for marketing to ensure appropriateness
• Make sure ads are appropriate and add value to community
• Be clear about policies and ensure that policies are available to and understood by community
• Involve the audience. Surveying members to determine which brands / types of messages they would
• Ensuring the right mix of content to ads
• Test and refine based on marketing effectiveness and feedback
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