Tagged: social media

Collaborative Economy Roundup for the Week of November 16, 2015

Collaborative Economy Roundup

With the horrible events of last week in Paris, Beirut, Israel and Kenya on my mind as we start the work week, I want to encourage everyone to think of ways to use connected technologies to bring us together instead of pulling us apart (as the extreme elements want). I wish you all a peaceful and productive week.

See something we missed? Email us, we’d love to hear from you.

3 Reads To Start Your Week

The Best of Last Week

1.   “Is the Sharing Economy a Retail Disruptor?” via eMarketer – “The sharing economy has emerged over the past decade to revolutionize travel and transportation. Is a similar disruption coming to retail?” – http://goo.gl/yrmGl0

2.  “Zipcar’s Co-Founder Weighs In on the Sharing Economy” via Bloomberg Business- “I think it’s one sub set of a much larger movement of platforms and people that are really reinventing the way we build businesses.” – http://goo.gl/q4lJZ6

3. “Future of the Global Workplace: The Growth of the Sharing Economy” via Radius – “Simple in concept, the sharing economy is also disruptive and has the potential to change the nature of work and careers.” – http://goo.gl/XZNt43

4. “We Need a Social Economy, Not a Hyper-Financialized Plantation Economy” via Charles Hugh Smith  – “What we need is a social economy, an economy that recognizes purposes and values beyond maximizing private gains by any means necessary, which is the sole goal of hyper-financialized economies.” – http://goo.gl/8H0G4z

5. “Be Your Own Boss” via Industry Leaders – “This economy isn’t a trend; it’s a new way of working.” – http://goo.gl/soUVsZ

6. “Airbnb is trying to resuscitate its image as the ‘nice guys’ of the sharing economy” via Fusion – “Airbnb, the company pledged, would share anonymized data on hosts and guests with cities, take steps to prevent illegal hotels from existing on the platform, and pay its ‘fair share’ of hotel and tourist taxes in cities that require it to.” – http://goo.gl/MtFZHU

7. “The sharing economy is people fueled and cloud powered” via Dell – “While many companies within the sharing economy—also called the collaborative economy—are just coming into their own, they’re actually not new.” – https://goo.gl/qrwxan

8. “Why I’m All For The Sharing Economy” via Odyssey – “The most profoundly positive aspect that the sharing economy has is its benefits for consumers.” – http://goo.gl/RNDpdS

9. “How the Sharing Economy Can Create Value from Waste” via The World Post – “We as a global society are beginning to pause and question before discarding something that might be of value to someone, no matter how remote or disconnected.” – http://goo.gl/NA62cd

10. “Secrets of the Sharing Economy” via BusinessMatters – “New research suggests that far from being the preserve of the millennial, the Sharing Economy is being more readily embraced by older consumers, with 35-44 year-olds emerging as its most vocal supporters.” – http://goo.gl/C44UM3

Don’t forget to register for our Collaborative Economy Kickstart Workshop. Space is limited, so get your tickets today: https://goo.gl/js28NG

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Collaborative Economy Roundup for the Week Ending October 30

coll_econ_roundup_header_big
Your Weekly
#‎CollabEcon Roundup for the Week Ending October 30
We hope everyone is geared up for an extra #spooky Halloween weekend. Uber’s latest valuation and funding round might be scary (actually, terrifying!) We’ll get you up to speed on this week’s best #CollabEcon articles. Just settle in with some trick or treat goodies and read the best the web has to offer this week:

1.  “Can the Commission collaborate on the collaborative economy?” via Science|Business – “At a Brussels news conference, top EU officials had different perspectives on taxi-sharing and other aspects of the ‘sharing’ economy.” – https://goo.gl/ioy5jj

2.  “Developing the Sharing Economy” via Economy Watch – “For any policy in this area to be effective, it needs to grapple with and challenge some underlying assumptions about the ‘sharing economy’ and its associated rhetoric.” – http://goo.gl/ylbgbY

3. “Interview with Uber: Creating a Frictionless Experience That Spawned A Generation of Copycats” via PSFK – “The Uber experience has also impacted consumer expectations across industries: if people can call a driver, organize a ride within minutes and pay for their trip at the tap of a button, why shouldn’t all service brands apply this same methodology?” – http://goo.gl/QSdl07

4. “Today’s sharing economy will shape our future” via The Daily Northwestern – “This recent unprecedented rise in the so-called ‘sharing economy’ is not just defining our careers, but also actively reshaping our daily lives and even our mental approach toward consumption.” – http://goo.gl/WWNuKN

5. “Following Uber’s Success, Copycats Rush To Carve Out Niches” via NewsFactor – “Uber has become a hip shorthand for efficient transportation and seamless commerce, a digital darling that turns your smartphone into a matchmaker between you and your ride home.” – http://goo.gl/PlLF1g

6. “FIR Interview: Jeremiah Owyang On Competing In The Collaborative Economy” via FIR Podcast Network – “The collaborative (or sharing) economy is heating up, with dramatic increases in both the number of startups that employ the model and the number of consumers who use them.” – http://goo.gl/DsV8Ha

7. “A Revolt Is Coming for Cloud Labor” via The WorldPost – “We are on the cusp of a revolution in the way work and labor are done.” – http://goo.gl/wucpNX

8.  “A worldwide paradigm shift from ‘sharing’ to ‘collaborative’ economy?” via LabGov– “Most importantly, it’s only if and when each and all of us gets directly involved in such a process that we together can make a difference – suggesting a more than necessary shift toward a more participatory and collaborative economy.” – http://goo.gl/MlcIiY

9.  “The Sharing Economy Doesn’t Need to Be Full of Monopolies” via The Atlantic – “Without checks on their power from consumers, these billion-dollar companies are beholden only to government regulation—and even then, sometimes they shrug that off.” – http://goo.gl/GvvLqC

10. “Corporate Travel Managers Don’t Trust the Sharing Economy” via Skift – “It’s shocking that more corporate travel managers haven’t embraced mobile technology and the sharing economy as ways to reduce costs and gain more accurate data on the habits of their clients.” – http://goo.gl/JCw0n6

Bonus: Bill spoke at Crowdsourcing Week Europe last week in Brussels (the conference was amazing). Presentations from all the sessions have been uploaded here. Do yourself a favor and spend some time with these slides!

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Communities in the Crowd Economy: #CSWEurope15

image credit: Xavier Damman @xdamman

This week I am participating in Crowdsourcing Week Europe 2015 in Brussels. The conference has an amazing range of speakers from both the public and private sector sharing their ideas about, and experiences from, the Crowd Economy.

My session focused on the critical role of Communities in the Crowd / Collaborative Economy, and covered:

  • Why 20th century businesses aren’t adapting to 21st century realities;
  • Why we need a fundamentally new and more expansive approach to building online communities in our evolving global economy;
  • Emerging opportunities for businesses to create and exchange new forms of value with their communities and in the process, become more sustainable.

Key points detailed below:

  1. Networked Companies Thrive
  2. Connected Customers Create More Value
  3. A Lens on the Collaborative (Crowd) Economy
  4. Crowd, Communities & Collaborative Organization
  5. An Example of a Market Network

1. Networked Companies Thrive
In a recent article from Harvard Business Review, a study between Deloitte and a team of independent researchers examined 40 years of S&P 500 data to examine how business models have evolved with emerging technologies. The study had 3 key findings, including the emergence of a distinct new business model of “Network Orchestrator”. As defined by the study:

Network Orchestrators. These companies create a network of peers in which the participants interact and share in the value creation. They may sell products or services, build relationships, share advice, give reviews, collaborate, co-create and more. Examples include eBay, Red Hat, and Visa, Uber, Tripadvisor, and Alibaba.

Network Orchestrators outperform their peers on revenue and profitability.

2. Connected Customers Create More Value
The 1:1 relationship between a company and a customer is increasingly perishable. The customer is blessed by an abundance of choice in the market, and increasingly (especially for technology) the lifespan of a relationship can last only days, weeks or months — not years. As an example: most software companies are moving from a perpetual license to term-based licensing that can be as short as 24 hours. Creating a great customer experience and minimizing churn are key. One key strategy is to develop customer communities where customers connect to people in the business (as hosts) as well as other customers and prospects (as peers). This creates a network of many to many connections, where bonds strengthen over time and value is exchanged in the form of knowledge, content, advice and help. These communities translate into real value for the customer and for the host business. When I led communities at Autodesk, we found that community members were more loyal and more likely to recommend than non-members. We also were able to quantify cost savings from our support community to be several million dollars. When I led communities at Dell, we discovered our IdeaStorm community members spent 50% more than non-members, and members’ purchase frequency was 33% higher than non-members. Community member ideas from IdeaStorm created $100’s of millions of dollars in revenue in the period between 2007–2011.

3. A Lens on the Collaborative (Crowd) Economy
My POV on the Collaborative Economy is that it is a set of trends, movements and technologies reshaping how we make, market, discover and use products and services. It was born out of the global financial crisis of 2008, enabled by global communications networks and digital technologies, and powered by people. I would also assert that Collaborative Economy initiatives should be focused on sustainable methods and equitable outcomes for all stakeholders.

The purpose of defining, identifying and studying the collaborative economy is to understand how business models need to evolve to thrive in this new economic context. 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 partnership with customers, not an internal social network no one really uses.

There are two great resources I would recommend to see the range of sectors and technologies that make up the Collaborative Economy:
Collaborative Economy Honeycomb – via Jeremiah Owyang / Crowd Companies
The 14 Parts of The Crowd Economy– via Sean Moffitt / CSW2

4. Crowd, Communities & Collaborative Organization
In order to begin exploring business opportunities in the collaborative 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

These contexts are not mutually exclusive, meaning, a Collaborative Economy initiative could engage a crowd, community and a collaborative organization context.

Screenshot 2015-10-21 09.45.54

5. An Example of a Market Network
As a thought exercise, I chose Levi’s as a brand to explore opportunities with. Please note: this is not client work.

The three key opportunities I see for Levi’s:
1.
Hosting a peer to peer marketplace where customers can sell / trade used and custom goods, possibly partnering or including listings from external marketplaces.
2. Extending their innovation function online (think a more modern IdeaStorm for apparel), as well as partnering with other communities to develop specific crowdsourcing and challenge initiatives. An example would be partnering with Hackster.io on a smart apparel.
3. Hosting their global fan and denim connoisseur community, while continuing to develop great content on their Unzipped blog. The community feeds all digital activity.

Example of a Market Network

Crowd Market Network Example of “Market as a Network”

My slide deck from my Crowdsourcing Week session:

The Net-net:
Networked companies are more valuable and resilient. Connected customers are more valuable to companies. To create long-term growth in a sustainable way, companies need to evolve their business models to address the “networked marketplace”. A new approach to online communities can provide a path for business model transformation.

Next Steps: I have developed a worksheet, based on my business model innovation workshop, to help businesses begin to explore new Crowd / Collaborative Economy initiatives. Please email me for the worksheet or to discuss participating in a facilitated workshop.

Structure3C Worksheet

Thoughts on the State of Community Management 2015 Report

Last week my friends and colleagues at The Community Roundtable released their annual “State of Community Management” report. This is the fifth year for the report, and the Roundtable team surveyed over 200 global organizations.

Key Points & Findings include:

  • An overview of the excellent Community Maturity model, as well as case studies on ho Microsoft and Johnson Controls have extended the model for internal use.
  • Organizations are still struggling to show ROI (less than 50% in Best In Class organizations).
  • Community Management, as a role and discipline, needs more internal investment and support.
  • Advocacy program need to mature beyond the “MVP Model”.
  • Findings on programming to boost community engagement.

You can view the executive summary here:

And register for the full report here.

I recommend taking the time to download and read the full report.

While at Forum One, I published a similar report in 2008. It’s interesting to note the places where the understanding of the practices and discipline of Community Management have advanced, and where progress seems slower (ROI, Organizational Structure).

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments! What is your take on the State of Community Management?

Preview of the Brands & Collaborative Economy Research Project

In March I embarked on a series of qualitative research projects to help organizations prepare for the disruption and opportunity emerging from the Collaborative Economy, and understand what resources they need to be successful. Crowds, Community & CollaborationWave 1 responses are in and the analysis is almost finished. I wanted to share a preview of the results to date. The full set of results will be published in June.

The pool of organizations that completed the survey ranged from Fortune 500 software, media and retail companies to small startups in the sharing economy space. A handful of non-profits also participated.

Key observations:

  1. A shared understanding of the Collaborative Economy is still forming.
  2. The Collaborative Economy is relevant to organizations, but the level of urgency isn’t high (yet).
  3. The most interesting sectors are Learning, Services and Corporate (“Sectors” as described by Crowd Companies Honeycomb model).
  4. Many organizations see online communities, social networks and collaboration platforms as “enablers” and areas to begin experimentation.
1. Shared Meaning & Definitions
Getting to a crisp definition and shared understanding of the Collaborative Economy is challenging because the concept describes the interplay of a number of other large trends and movements, including (but not limited to) the Sharing Economy, Sustainable Development, Digital Transformation, the Maker Movement, Internet of Things, Future of Making Things and more. In the context of this research project, when asked to describe their understanding of the Collaborative Economy, respondents mainly spoke to 3 key themes of the Collaborative Economy as:An economic model…

“A model in which the creation and exchange of value (of goods, services, knowledge, etc) occurs through human interactions versus (solely) financial transactions. Asset allocation is optimized such that resources are jointly consumed and assets rarely stand idle.”

A social movement…

“Where brands and people start thinking more cooperatively for the greater good…instead of competitively & businesses go back to being more sociable and people-focused.”

A technical platform…

“Coordination of mobile devices, cashless payment systems, reliable rating mechanisms to get value from each other as opposed to centralized corporation of assets.”

2. Relevance and Urgency
Most respondents said the Collaborative Economy was either “Somewhat Relevant” or “Very Relevant” both now and through the next 12-18 months. The fact that many respondents gave responses that indicated a relatively low level of urgency was very surprising. It is likely that most organizations:
  • Don’t understand how to formulate a strategy
  • Don’t have the necessary vision, leadership and resources to engage
  • Don’t see a burning platform of missed opportunity or competitive threat
  • Aren’t willing (yet) to make the investments in platforms, partnerships, open collaboration and the making corporate assets available.

The respondents who did indicate a high level of urgency, and had active pilots, were engaging in activities ranging from: investment in or partnership with complimentary startups, development of platforms and marketplaces, evolving existing social business programs, and re-developing the value exchanges of their online communities. These pilot programs will be covered in more detail in the final report.

Relevance and Urgency

 

3. Emerging Sectors
Research participants were asked to rank certain sectors of the Collaborative Economy by level of interest. The sector categories were sourced from the  Crowd Companies Honeycomb model.
emerging_BaCC

 

4. Enablers
Survey participants were asked to rank the following systems, technologies and engagements based upon their perceived value in enabling an organization to engage in the Collaborative Economy.
Enablers_BaCC

 

The full Brands and the Collaborative Economy report will be released in June, going in to further detail on the topics above, as well as:

  • An overview of current pilot programs being conducted by the respondents;
  • Key sources of information and data about the Collaborative Economy;
  • An overview of missing or underdeveloped resources and services needed by organizations for their Collaborative Economy initiatives.

Next Up:
Wave 2 Research begins June 1st.
Wave 2 research will begin the week of June 1st, and will cover:

  • Lessons learned from early successes and failures
  • Organizational resources needed to develop and sustain pilot programs
  • Development of a simple framework for Collaborative Economy pilot programs

If you are interested in participating in the research (via survey), being interviewed or profiled for the report, or sponsoring a future report, please send me an note.

Private Briefings & Advisory Sessions
I am also doing a limited number of private briefings on the Collaborative Economy research and how a modern approach to online communities can support innovation, customer acquisition and retention.
I’m available for online session booking via Popexpert, or feel free to drop me a note.

Zurich Marketplace

Opportunities for Brands in the Collaborative Economy

Zurich Marketplace

Plan from Frau Gerolds in Zurich, CH http://www.fraugerold.ch/

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about the Collaborative Economy lately. The key question many brands are asking: How do I get started?
The good news? You may already have. Most organizations have an existing online customer community (or communties). Most are as simple as technical support forums, but many organizations have explored community engagement that touch most parts of their businesses, from product, to marketing, even recruiting and talent development. Organizations as diverse as Lego, Autodesk, Patagonia, Starbucks, BMW and GE have all shown leadership in this area. Like the previously mentioned organizations, if you have been engaged in building the social business muscle in your organization, you have been building a solid foundation for engagement in the Collaborative Economy.

Big Challenges / Early Days

If you consider the evolution required for most organizations to embrace the Collaborative Economy, the task can seem overwhelming and the path perilous. Unfreezing corporate assets, opening up IP portfolios, bringing customers in to every stage of product development, even bringing customers inside the organization for extended periods – these are all huge issues to wrestle with, there is no doubt. But just like customer voices drove the social media revolution and customer’s preferences drove the customer experience and mobile revolutions, customer choice with experiences like AirBNB, Uber, Kickstarter and taskrabbit will increasingly fuel demand for radical change in products and experiences from established organizations.

So again we are back to the question: How do I get started? To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite professors in my Sustainable Development program: “Start where you are, do what you can.”  It is important to note that we are in the early days of this revolution, and as such, there are few hard and fast rules. Being crisp on business goals and measures of success, while being open to unexpected learnings and sources of value are all key. Specifically, my guidance is to start with your Community and Social Business programs and extend from there.

Places to Start

The list below is meant to give a few examples to start your own internal conversations about the Collaborative Economy – feedback and ideas are welcome in the comments.

1. Explore “Community” with a capital “C”
Move beyond break-fix support forums, and explore ways to engage your customers in product design, product development, content creation and local meetups. The state of online community development has been stalled in recent years by a fixation on customer acquisition via social media. The opportunity is ripe to invest in building your on-domain community and crowd-engagement experiences.
Further reading:
Autodesk’s Fusion 360 Community

2. Open Products,IP, and Assets
Is there an opportunity to open up some, or all, of your product or IP assets to encourage co-creation with your customers or spur market development? These could be in the form Digital Assets (design files, specs, branding, instructions), Product Assets (Digital or physical kits, tooling, specs) or other
IP.
Further reading:
Telsa Opens Patents
Toyota Opens Fuel Cell Patents

3. Open Space:
Organizations generally have a large physical footprint. Many have experimented with opening up unused office space for rent or as on-demand meeting or co-working space. Other companies have tapped their unused manufacturing or production capacity. Retailers are beginning to bring in outside brands and individual makers to sell wares in their retail spaces. Some of the most innovative or actually creating labs and makerspaces and inviting the public in to co-create.
Further reading:
Office Space Yield Management 
Maker’s Row helps match factories with designers
Shop’s at Target (First version of this failed, expect to see more)
GE’s FirstBuild MakerSpace
Autodesk Artist in Residence

4. Share Digital Platforms
Just as many organizations have underutilized physical space, they also have underutilized digital capacity & platforms. What are the possible initiatives for opening up your existing platforms and sharing other forms of digital capacity and data?
Further reading:
Amazon opens store on Alibaba (example of one retailer opening to competitor)
Can I trust you really? The Reputation Currency
Why Online Reputation Needs to be Portable

5. Allow Access to  Talent
One of the most interesting and largely unexplored areas of opportunity is the talent & cognitive surplus present in most organizations. What if that talent and expertise could be could be made available outside the organization? There are a number of challenges here, including an equitable vs exploitative approach, but the results of unleashing creatives and knowledge workers to explore problems beyond their “corporate” boundaries could be amazing. What if you could buy 2 hours of an Apple product designer’s time? Or get feedback from engineer at Boeing on product idea? Or hire a staff writer from Hallmark to write your Mother’s Day Card?

6. Open Access to the Community & Crowd
I mentioned the opportunity to create “Community with a Capital C” earlier in the post. One key challenge with any brand community, no matter how engaging or interesting the brand might be, is that it will likely only be relevant to a specific dimension of a customer’s work or life. Not understanding and accepting this simple fact has been the demise of many online community strategies. To get full value and engagement from online communities in the Collaborative Economy, brands are going to have to get more… well, collaborative. Radically so. Partnering with, and engaging independent communities, existing partners, and increasingly, competitors will be key. One example I would point to is the ongoing series of events that Hackster.io (a community for hardware hackers) is putting on with support from a range of incubators, hardware and software companies. All parties involved are prioritizing community engagement above competitive differences – as a result, everyone wins.
Further reading:
Hackster.io Hardware Weekend

7. Explore Incubation & Innovation
There are essentially three approaches here: 1) Outpost: Open an innovation or research center in a market hotspot like silicon valley; 2) Scout: Send Innovation scouts out into key markets to identify trends, find partners and start pilots or 3) Incubate: Create labs or workshops inside existing corporate locations. All serve similar approaches as they try to equalize the innovation equilibrium inside and outside the corporate membrane.
Further reading:
Ford Silicon Valley Research Center
Swisscom Open Innovation
Autodesk’s Pier 9 Workshop

Suggested Further reading:
Brand Loyalty and the Collaborative Economy – Rachel Botsman
Collaborative Economy: Brand Edition – Jeremiah Owyang

Net: Brands have an amazing opportunity for growth and value-creation in the Collaborative Economy. Those with existing social business and innovation programs are well positioned to navigate the transformation and be the early market leaders. Expect innovative brands to do a lot of experimentation in 2015.

Brands & The Collaborative Economy Research Project: Call for Participation

Update 3/2/15: The survey (Wave 1) will remain open until Friday, March 6th. We’ve had great response from brands, startups and a handful of non-profits. If your organization would still like to participate, you have until EOD 3/6/2015
bitly.com/collabeconbrands.


Today I’m kicking off a qualitative research project exploring the level of understanding, interest in, and urgency surrounding the Collaborative Economy for Brands. The goal of the project is to gain an understanding of how Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 6.38.22 AMorganizations are addressing the threats and opportunities emerging from the Collaborative Economy, how quickly they are engaging, and what resources they need to be successful. The research project will be comprised of a short online survey, select follow up interviews, and an additional series of interviews with emerging leaders in the space. To participate in the research, please take this short, 10 question survey.  All survey participants will receive a copy of the Brands and the Collaborative Economy report when it is published in March. If you would like to be considered for the thought leadership interview, please email me: bill@structure3c.com. I will be preview results from the project at the Collaborative Economy Conference (I’m chairing) in San Francisco, Feb 25-26th. Use code STRUCTURE15 for a 15% discount on top of the early bird discount that runs through Feb 13. Special thanks to Duleesha Kulasooriya, Jay Rughani, Jeremiah Owyang, Chip Roberson, Nancy White and Steve Alter for their feedback on the project.

Announcing Structure3C – Strategies for the Collaborative Economy

Today I’m taking a big (and scary) step in my professional practice – I’m going out on my own to launch a new venture: Structure3C.

It is becoming clear that a new wave of activity, the Collaborative Economy, is poised to have a large impact on global markets. Many organizations are not prepared for the coming shift, and given my experience with and passion for online community, crowdsourcing and collaboration, I see a huge opportunity to help.

So, the “official” pitch:
structure3c_sm

Structure3C helps organizations develop vision and strategy to thrive in the Collaborative Economy.

Through the lens of the “3C”s – Crowd, Online Community & Collaboration – we develop strategies, programs and experiences that connect brands and customers in meaningful, valuable and equitable ways.

In the next 3 weeks I will be:

  • Kicking off a research project to get an initial baseline of Brand’s understanding of, interest in, and readiness for the impact of the Collaborative Economy.
  • Announcing a strategy development workshop in SF in early March.
  • Chairing the Collaborative Economy Conference in SF on Feb 25-26.

Please wish me luck. If I can be of help to you or your organization, please reach to me at bill@structure3c.com or 415.299.9638.

It’s Time to Flip the Social Media & Community ROI Equation on its Head

It’s no secret that many Brands realize tremendous value from their social media and online community efforts. Value in the form of cost-reduction for support and service, ideas for and feedback on products, product and brand advocacy… the list goes on and on. Most organizations have analytics in place and some form of dashboard that tracks performance, and in many cases, actual financial impact of social and community efforts.

Unfortunately, there is also a problem with the current approach Brands take: it’s unsustainable – unsustainable because it is predicated on Customers doing valuable work for free. 

We need a new social and online community value equation.  Stay with me here. In the early days of community, all brands really had to do was show up. Hosting a discussion forum met pent-up need for customers to connect, share and help each other. The motivation for participation was generally either purely altruistic and/or driven by the desire for enhanced reputation and recognition.

More recently Community Advocacy programs, elaborate reputation systems and game mechanics were introduced to drive contribution to communities. On the one hand, these programs and technologies enhance the Brand community experience. On the other (and more cynical) hand, they could be perceived as an inequitable attempt to squeeze more value from community members.

Further, there is currently an explosion of expertise and talent marketplaces like Maven, PopExpert, Odesk, Google Helpouts and 100s of others, Community experts now have myriad marketplace options and some are starting to charge for their talent and expertise.

To net it out:
1. Brands generally view Communities as cost-saving vs. value producing, and consequently:
2. Brands haven’t truly considered what an equitable value exchange might look like between the organization and the community;
3. Compensation to the community contributors comes in the form of either reputation and / or fulfilling on an altruistic need, with a very small percentage of member getting “MVP” benefits;
4. There is an explosion of knowledge and service marketplaces that allow experts to place financial value for knowledge and expertise.

In short: Brands have to rethink their social and community strategies from an exchanged-value perspective, or risk losing their community.

What to do?
The most critical thing is to rethink the Social & Community value equation, and to move beyond the myopic view of Customer Communities as solely a means to reduce cost. Instead of asking what the benefit is to the organization, real research and critical thinking needs to be applied to the needs, expectations and values of customers who might participate in a community. The range of value received from the the community by participants needs to be broadened – access to communal knowledge and connections are an expected part of the digital experience now. Compensation for Community participation and contribution must evolve beyond reputation and become more tangible, possibly in the form of products, services or even financial compensation.

A few key questions to explore:

  • What if community members knew the explicit value of their attention and contribution to a community? 

  • What impact would this knowledge of value have on the current community?
  • How might we enhance the community experience by surfacing and rewarding contribution beyond rank and reputation?

  • What are the emerging knowledge and service marketplaces that might attract our current key contributors?

  • How might our competition attract our customers with a more valuable community experience?

I’d love to hear other’s perspective on the issue of sustainable participation. Please chime in via the comments below.

Dr. Strangeshare or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the “Collaborative Economy”

dr_strangeloveI have a confession to make: I can become really obsessed with labels.

Back in 2008, when I was producing events and conducting research focused on Online Communities for Forum One, the word “social media” hit broad adoption. I had countless debates with my colleagues about what we should title events and new research initiatives to stay true to the intention and tradition of online community building, while including the emergent activity happening on the mass social networks that were experiencing explosive growth globally. Two years later at Dell, our centralized “Social Business” team was called “SMaC” – Social Media and Community. Many labels in play trying to describe a spectrum of concepts and activities.

Ch-ch-ch Changes
On the one hand, each new term that has been introduced introduced to describe a major shift (virtual community, online community, social media, social business…) signaled a major evolution or change in culture, driven by the twin forces of technology and culture. On the other hand, each change contained so many attributes of the last wave that it was easy to be cynical that it was change in name only, driven by consultants, analysts and authors ready to make a label stick to own a market or concept. What really happened? Honestly, I think a bit of both – as market and cultural forces gained energy, a handful of folks were able to step forward and help make meaning of what was going on and describe what possible future scenarios might come in to play. I created a simple diagram to describe what I personally saw in my career to date:

A Snapshot of the Evolution of Online Communties
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click for a larger version)

Something’s Happening Here
Which brings us more or less up to date. When I first heard the terms “Sharing Economy” and “Collaborative Economy” hitting mainstream last summer, my immediate reaction was a cynical “here we go again”. But then I started doing research, and listening to some of the smart voices in the field signaling the change. In particular, I found Rachel Botsman’s work very helpful and insightful. Her “The Sharing Economy Lacks a Shared Definition” is an especially good overview. Jeremiah Owyang has done a lot of research and writing in the field as well, and it was his energy and insight that helped me decide to make Autodesk a founding member of his Crowd Companies brand council.

I’m convinced we are entering a new era – one that draws on the collective learning, social technology and cultural evolution to set the stage for the next act in a very long play that the Cluetrain Manifesto described in 1999:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

I keep coming back to a handful of questions to help frame how the Collaborative Economy will affect my day to day practice:

  • How might this next phase of “social” enable (or force) sustainable and thriving businesses?
  • How can Brand’s fully design and engage an extended community ecosystem – inclusive of all stakeholders (customer, partners & employees), built on shared value?
  • How will reputation play a role as the marketplace becomes a mesh? How can we make data, content and associated reputation all portable across meaningful contexts?
  • How will participation and contribution will be valued, exchanged and incentivized in the near future?
  • What does the future of crowdsroucing and co-innovation really look like?IMHO, early examples, like Dell’s IdeaStorm (I designed the current incarnation) and marketplace’s like Quirky and kickstarter are all part of an interesting but humble beginning.

The net-net: for me, the time for lable-gazing is done. It’s time to learn, experiment and evolve my practice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Updated 3/3/14 @ 11:55am
This morning, Jeremiah Owyang released a new report: Sharing is the New Buying, Winning in the Collaborative Economy – this is the largest study of the Collaborative Economy to date, and an informative read.