Tagged: billjohnston

Who Owns Community? – Webinar this Wednesday

 I’m doing a webinar with Matthew Lees from the Patricia Seybold Group this Wednesday about how the community team functions and is funded in the corporate environment.

Please join us if you can.

Who Owns Community? – Webinar
Aligning Business Sponsorship and Responsibility with Community Goals
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
11:00 AM Pacific / 2:00 PM Eastern
Free Webinar hosted by Forum One and the Patricia Seybold Group

Online communities and social networks are changing the ways
organizations do business in this customer-empowered, Web 2.0 world.
Different companies have taken different paths in defining the
ownership of community initiatives.

Join Matthew Lees of the Patricia Seybold Group and Bill Johnston,
Director, Community & Research of Forum One Communications, for this
live Webinar in a discussion of these questions and issues:

• Who should be responsible and accountable for it? Who should fund it?
• What problems can arise — both within the company and within the
community — if the “wrong” group owns it?
• Do the answers to these questions depend on the industry, the type
of community, or other things?

Space is limited. Click here to register.

Online Community Summit: A report back

The sixth Online Community Summit was held last Thursday and Friday, October 4th and 5th in Sonoma, CA. We had a really great group of folks this year (as usual), ranging from small startups and non-profits, to large software, online and media companies.

The size of the Summit is small and feels really intimate. Because we limit the number of attendees, you actually have the opportunity to get to know everyone over the course of the 2 days. The smaller groups size also allows for real conversations during the sessions, as opposed to the traditional “talking head” sessions that make up most conferences.

Peter Cohen of Amazon Mechanical Turk
I found one of the most thought-provoking sessions to be Peter Cohen’s session on crowdsourcing. Peter runs Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service.

Peter started off with a bang by saying “The Internet reduces the cost of getting things done to almost nothing”.

Amazon started the “Mechanical Turk” service because they had / have data-oriented problems that benefit from interaction with large scale human interactions. They quickly decided that they could extend the model to go from “solving Amazon’s problems to everyone’s” Amazon’s belief was that there was power in online communities if you can only bring the people together for a coherent goal.

Amazon is using the service to:
– Cataloging content
– Deduplicate items (defy a machines ability)

Other companies are using the service to:
– Search companies get people to judge relevance. Search gives you results. User must pattern match to get answers
– Geospatial: UK – people drive around and take pictures of infrastructure
– Castingworks: Transcription / editing
– Catalog building
– Media Monitoring: uses MT to determine tone in popular press and social media
– Local shopping sits: product reviews

What’s Next Session
I had the pleasure of assisting David Forrest from The Motley Fool in the closing “What’s Next” session. Josh Ledgard has a really good synopsis of the session on his blog. Kim Bayne captured some of the session on blog tv here.

I’ve also added my slides here.

Other folks blogging about the event:
Joi Podgorny – http://joipodgorny.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/day-2-ocs-2007-notes/
Josh Ledgard’s Blog – http://ledgards.com/blogs/josh/archive/2007/10/05/ocs-2007-now-what.aspx
Dr Fuzzy – http://drfuzzy.wordpress.com/2007/10/04/online-community-summit-2007/

5 Questions Webinar: My content, transcript and archive

I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar yesterday with George Jaquette of Intuit and Aaron Strout of Shared Insights.

Aaron just posted the webinar archive and transcript on the Wearesmarter.com site.

Additionally, I wanted to post my notes from the event, which more or less sum up what I said (or meant to say: ) ).

Question 1: How do I create a value-driven community strategy?
It is important to remember that value is relative to your organization and also to your community. As an organization, you need to do some research (and soul searching) on why you want to host a community, what value you need to get out of the activity, and most importantly, what value YOU can bring to the table.
Hint: making your customers happy is generally a path to growth.
Question 2: Which metrics should I be measuring? (Measuring value in traditional and non-traditional ways)
The short answer? It depends on your community goals. It should be a mix of quantitative and qualitative.

Traditional Web Metrics ( a few examples)
Page views, time on site, referring sites, referring search engines, referring search terms

New Community / Social Media Metrics ( a few examples)
Member engagement: activity and “investment” in community
Member Loyalty & Satisfaction
Membership Growth and Attrition
Member referrals (also a sign of engagement),
Quality of content and exchange: For instance, resolution time, days thread was active, ratio of validated responses. Support communities are leading the way on best practices and reporting.
Tracking the brand through the “Community ecosystem”: Tracking brands and community members as they travel through the larger community ecosystem that spans sites, technologies and devices.
Impact of the community on revenue: Particular attention is being paid to the value of members, both to the host communities’ revenue, and the organization’s sales or fundraising.
Mobile interactions with the community: including views and posts from mobiles.

This question is explored more thoroughly in our Online Community Metrics 2007 report, which can be downloaded for free here.
Question 3: How do I manage my community, and how can I enlist my community to help?
First, you don’t “manage” a community. You host. If your intention in engaging in community building activities is to manipulate the community in some way, don’t bother. Members will run away in droves.
With that said, there is a role in every community for a manager or moderator that ensures that the community is a “clean, well lit place”, or at least keeps to the culture and values expressed in the community policies. Policies and norms of expected behavior should be clearly articulated and easily accessible. This leaves the community moderator / manager to more interesting activities than deleting all the posts with “f@ck” in them, like actually participating in the community.

Give your community the tools to help manage the community , including the ability to rate and flag content, escalate issues to the moderator, and provide feedback on the user experience.

Find your influences and evangelists (typically, the most active (and positive) members), and put them on a pedestal. Sean O’Driscoll of MS has a lot of great things to say about the topic of engaging influencers.


Question 4: How do I grow my community without losing intimacy?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly get this question. If you design a community UX poorly, event one with 100 members will feel anonymous.
My feedback was to basically grow from your base, and stick to your values and culture. Give members the ability to create subgroups, and allow members to create rich profiles.

Question 5: Within our company, who should blog and who shouldn’t?
Those with a point of view, subject matter expertise and a PERSONALITY should be blogging. I made the point that good blogging candidates in a company are likely already blogging outside of the company. Good corporate blogging often times feels like corporate “reality TV”, providing access inside the corporate membrane in an informal, interesting and (hopefully) lighthearted way.

There were great questions via the phone, and a great back channel chat happening during the call. Again, the transcript can be found here.

Webinar: 5 Questions Every Company is Asking About their Community

I am doing a webinar on Tuesday, September 25th with George Jaquette of Intuit and Aaron Strout of Shared Insights.

We will be exploring the following 5 questions that most companies are asking about their community initiatives:

1. How do I create a value-driven community strategy?
2. Which metrics should I be measuring?(Measuring value in traditional and non-traditional ways)
3. How do I manage my community, and how can I enlist my community to help?
4. How do I grow my community without losing intimacy?
5. Within our company, who should blog and who shouldn’t?

Please join us, and participate in the conversation.


5 Questions Every Company is Asking About their Community
Where: Online
When: September 25, 2007 at 2:00 PM ET

Sign up here.

Online Community ROI: Reporting on Dimensions of Value

We conducted the Online Community ROI research study in May of 2007, as a function of the Online Community Research Network. The study explored how organizations determined ROI, what dimensions of value were being reported to management, and the attitudes in the organization around the concept of community value.

We had over 50 completed surveys, and participants included large software companies, large community destination sites, niche community sites, community platform providers and consultants. Most respondents were senior staff that managed most / all online community budgets for their organizations.

Organizational Attitudes Towards Online Community Investment

Overall, the survey results indicated a fairly high tolerance for investing in online community activities without clear “hard numbers” ROI. Other date in the survey results shows that dimensions of value other than fiduciary are being accepted as “return” on community investment and involvement. However, the majority of respondents did say they were expected to communicate clear return in the future. Creating a clear ROI model for most organizations is clearly a priority, even those not under immediate pressure to communicate value.

Attitude Towards Communication of Value

A small number of respondents reported that they had the ability to tie community initiatives back to their corporate goals, and to clearly communicate ROI. The majority of research participants felt their initiatives are adding value, but can’t provide a complete ROI model. A small percentage of respondents feel their initiatives are disconnected from corporate goals, and they currently don’t report on value. This speaks to the need for most organizations to create an ROI model, and one that includes more dimensions of value than direct financial value.

Online Community Budgets

One last data point from the survey. When we asked about online community budgets. 75% of those that answered indicated a spend of at least $50k, and there were a significant number of that indicated spends of over $100k and over $500k annually, not including headcount. Obviously one would need to understand an organization’s spend in other areas to determine the proportion of overall annual budget, but these budget numbers do indicate significant investment in community by the participating organizations.

The evolving role of the Community Manager

Cross posted from the OC Report:

The topic of online community team organizational structures seems to be getting increasingly hot.

The two main questions seem to be:

• Where does the community team “belong” in a corporate structure?
• What are the roles on that team?

I’ve explored the former a couple of times, so I thought I would spend some time on the roles of the team, and in particular, the community manager. I would really love to hear what you think about this. I know leaving comments on this blog can be a bit of a pain (working on it), so if you have any issues, please email me.

The role of Community Manager seems to be evolving in the following ways:

The role is less about moderation and more about product management.
Most thriving communities need little action by the moderators. Management tools are (in general) sufficient enough to combat spam, and most communities have empowered the members with tools to flag abusive or inappropriate posts. Simply put: with adequate and findable community guidelines, active moderation can (and should) be in the hands of the members. strategy, features, UX, platform, budgets, marketing (and a hundred other things). In short, very much like the role of a product manager.

An expectation of communicating value (ROI) rather than stats
Community managers are now expected to not just report stats (page views, membership growth), but also to report on other points of value, and to contextualize that value, at least in part, in terms of progress on business goals.

Community managers are expected to grow relationships with the influencers in the community
Community managers are increasingly expected to know who their lead members are, and what effect their influence has on other community members.

Community managers should be thinking about “portability” of their team
In some companies, sources of community funding, and even the reporting structure of the community team is changing every few quarters. We live in evolutionary times, so it is good for community managers to reach out to senior staff on teams outside their immediate reporting structures.

In some cases, seasoned community managers are evolving into the Community Director, with several functions reporting in to him / her. My Community dream team would look something like this (YMMV):
• Moderators
• UX
• Analytics
• Content Manager / Community Editor
• Marketing
• Developer / Ops

I’d like to hear from the community managers out there. What are you experiencing in your day to day work? What am I missing here?

Marketing & Online Communities: Techniques still rudimentary

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report.

I initiated the Marketing & Online Community research study in June of 2007, as a function of the Online Community Research Network. The study was conceived as an investigation into the current state of marketing to online communities, from the perspective of both the online community host, as well as from the perspective of a marketer.

We had over 60 completed surveys, and participants included large software companies, large community destination sites, niche community sites, platform providers and interactive marketing and advertising firms.

One of the most interesting findings from the study actually surfaced early in the process. We discovered that while community hosts and practitioners were willing to share their experiences, most marketers were not. After 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 generally unwilling to talk about their experiences to date.The responses from the marketer’s perspective are proportionally less than those from the community host’s, but the insights provided are still of high value.

From the community host’s perspective, one of the most surprising takeaways was that community hosts were still largely relying on banner and text ads as their main marketing and advertising vehicles.

I’ve included 2 of the most relevant question summaries from the report below:

Q: What types of marketing and advertising activity do you support on your community sites?
Summary: Banner and text ads were the most common forms of marketing activity, followed by RSS, branded content and surveys. There was activity indicated on most categories of community marketing, which seems to indicate willingness on the part of online community hosts and practitioners to experiment with new forms of marketing to their communities. Virtual world storefronts and sponsored podcasts scored surprisingly low, given the media attention in the last 6-9 months.

Q: Is advertising targeting available on your site? If so, please select all options that apply.
Summary: Run of site and contextual targeting were available on the majority of respondent’s sites. More sophisticated technologies, like behavioral and demographic targeting were only available on a few of the respondents communities. Given that there is generally a large amount of demographic data available in a community members profile, it would seem that there is a large opportunity to engage in more sophisticated ad targeting on sites currently just offering run of site or contextual targeting.

The Marketing & Online Communities report is published by the Online Community Research Network, a collaborative research series for online community professionals. If you would like to learn more about the Marketing & Online Communities research report, or more about the Online Community Research Network, please visit the OC Research Network home page.

Online Community Research: Metrics 2007 Report Posted

The Online Community Metrics 2007 research report has been posted on the Online Community Research Network. You can download the report from the OCRN home page.

Some of the most significant findings published in this study include:

• Metrics options: a wide-ranging list of new and different metrics which respondents found valuable apart from the norm of page visits and unique visitors.

• Desired metrics: a valuable wish list that has been complied by online community professionals for online community professionals.

• Tools for collecting metrics: a highlighted graph on data collected to see what the best services, tools and techniques are for collecting and analyzing online community data.

• Demonstrating ROI: Quantifying the value of community efforts for management.

• Advice: Top tips accumulated for community managers concerning best practice metrics.

Our research is predicated on the belief that the best source for information regarding online communities continues to be other online community professionals. A quote from the report:

“Numbers tell a story, but numbers only tell part of the story. Metrics are important – page views, new threads & posts, etc all tell you hard growth facts. But part of community is organic — how the culture is developing, how many people are forming deeper relationships with each other — these are important things for community growth that can’t be measured.”

Again, the full report can be downloaded from the Online Community Research Network home page: http://www.onlinecommunityresearch.com

This research study is conducted as part of the recently launched Online Community Research Network (OCRN).

The OCRN is a collaborative research effort of online community professionals to better understand the challenges of building and managing online communities. You can find more information on the OCRN home page, if you are interested.

Enjoy the report!

Blogging’s A-list – Off with their heads?

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report.

A cry for revolution was heard over the July 4th holiday this week, for the era of the A list bloggers to come to an end.

It all started (i think) with Kent Newsome’s pretty hilarious spoof on the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Blogging Independence, where he takes aim squarely at the Technorati Top 100.

When in the Course of online events it becomes necessary for alienated and isolated bloggers to dissolve the existing blogging hierarchy and exclusionary behavior which have disconnected them from the A-List and made them feel even more nerdy, and to assume among the multitude of powers they wish they had, the equally unattainable station to which the Laws of It Ain’t Fair entitle them, a decent respect for The Onion and Al Gore requires that they should write yet another post no one will ever read to declare the many real and imagined causes which impel them to the third party affected and now ironically embraced separation.

Others quickly joined the revolution:

Joe Duck, from his The Blogging Revolution has begun! (?) post, says:

I’m tired of reading the same old people who in some cases are too busy chasing dollars to blog nearly as creatively as they did in the old days (ie a year ago). The more ominous case is the new trend in blogging that has “A listers” effectively (even if not literally) shilling for big corporations under the provocative guise called “conversational marketing”.

And in a subsequent post actually talks about removing Alisters from his feed list.

Hugh Macleod chimes in here.

In the past, say, from the late ‘nineties until the last six-twelve months or so, Bloggers’ readership grew IN PROPORTION to the social networks that were built up around them. Hence the phenomenon of the “A-List”.

But if we’re honest, looking back, it was always these circumventing social networks that were the really interesting part of the equation. The actual blogger in question, less so. Even if in our celebrity-worshiping culture, we sometimes forgot that.

It’s interesting that some of the backlash was based on the personal accessibility of the blogger, and sometimes the overexposure of a particular blogger, either via the media or at conferences. The reality is, one persons time and attention is only so scalable.

One a personal note, I do think my habits have changed a bit over the last 6 months in that I cast a wider net than just the A-List. For me, this is mostly a byproduct of meeting several hundred new people passionate about online communities and social media because of the Forum One evens I now help run. I am exposed, face to face, to a lot more “b &c” list bloggers that have interesting and insightful things to talk about. They are actually in the trenches doing the work (managing communities, building social networks, developing new marketing techniques), as opposed to just commenting on the industry.

A very specific example of a changed habit: I read Scoble’s shared links almost daily, but I almost never read his actual blog’s feed. I’m more interested in what he is reading and what he is paying attention to.

What do you think? Are your content consumption habits changing because of social networks?