A Guide To Community Management

Just a few short months ago, I was an implementer of community and social media products and programs.  The success I had in those roles, and the knowledge I carry with me now, is thanks in part to the Forrester research reports that helped guide me along the way — so I’m especially excited to now be the author of one of those documents.

My first Forrester report is called the Community Management Checklist (Forrester clients can click the link to read it.)  It’s an overview of the process marketers need to follow and the important-but-sometimes-overlooked concepts and ideas to keep in mind as they work towards launching or engaging with their community.  

Through my research, I identified four phases of the process that can be handily summarized by the acronym PALM:

Planning: Laying the groundwork, setting objectives, exploring existing conversations, making necessary early decisions.

Alignment: Building internal consensus and processes.

Launch: Attracting and retaining members.

Maintenance: Cultivating relationships with your members and turning them into loyalists.

In the document, I’ve covered many issues that marketers have told me they’ve struggled with, so I hope you’ll find that it gives you actionable advice to help you during your own planning process. If it sparks other thoughts or questions, let me know in the comments here or on Twitter — a quick comment from you might turn into an important research topic for me.  

Help Us Benchmark "Social Maturity"

We recently embarked on a Forrester-wide research project to benchmark the use of social technologies across enterprise organizations led by my colleague Sean Corcoran. Why is this important? Well, as you may know, Forrester covers social technologies from a wide range of perspectives — from roles in marketing to IT to technology professionals. We find that each of these roles differs in its general “social maturity” and that most companies are experiencing pockets of success, but few, if any, are successfully implementing it across the board. Full maturity in this space could take years, but there are clear differences in how some ahead-of-the-curve companies are using social technologies for business results. The one question we know that our clients — across roles — are interested in is: “Where is my organization compared to others in the use of social media?”

To help answer that question for our various roles, we're conducting a survey and doing interviews to understand:

  • How do you define “social maturity,” and why is it important to get there?
  • Which companies are ahead of the curve in implementing social technologies for both external use (i.e., for customers/consumers) and/or internal use (i.e., for employees/partners)?
  • What have been the biggest drivers of success?
  • What are the biggest challenges?
  • What steps do most organizations need to take and why?

 

The point of all of this is that we'd like your help. If you're interested, here's how:

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Help Us Benchmark “Social Maturity”

 We recently embarked on a Forrester-wide research project to benchmark the use of social technologies across enterprise organizations. Why is this important? Well as you may know, we cover social technologies from a wide range of perspectives — from roles in marketing to IT to technology professionals. We find each of these roles differ in their general "social maturity" and that most companies are experiencing pockets of success, but few, if any, are successfully implementing it across the board. In fact, full maturity in this space could take years, but there are clear differences in how some "ahead of the curve" companies are using social technologies for business results.

Infrastructure and operations professionals have not necessarily focused on how they can leverage social technologies but rather how they might have to support (or not support) these technologies. In some enterprises, the Security and Risk group has determined that IT operations must block access to social networking sites such as Facebook.

We have come across a couple of progressive IT operations groups that are thinking about social as part of a larger help desk strategy. How?

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Help Us Benchmark “Social Maturity”

We recently embarked on a Forrester-wide research project to benchmark the use of social technologies across enterprise organizations. Why is this important? Well as you may know, we cover social technologies from a wide range of perspectives — from roles in marketing to IT to technology professionals. We find each of these roles differ in their general “social maturity” and that most companies are experiencing pockets of success, but few, if any, are successfully implementing it across the board. In fact, full maturity in this space could take years, but there are clear differences in how some “ahead of the curve” companies are using social technologies for business results.

There are serious security and risk concerns with social technology but there are also significant business and operational benefits. Security professionals have to determine how they can mitigate these risks to an acceptable level without significantly hampering the business. If you haven’t seen it, Chenxi Wang has written an excellent report on how effective management of social media can alleviate security risks. Check out To Facebook Or Not To Facebook.

There is also some discussion about how security professionals might use social technologies to their own benefit — particularly to leverage the knowledge of other security professionals to combat the growing sophistication of security attacks. If you haven’t seen it, check out John Kindervag’s report SOC 2.0: Virtualizing Security Operations.

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Market Researchers: Help Us Benchmark “Social Maturity”

We are starting a Forrester-wide research project to benchmark the use of social technologies across enterprise organizations, and I want market researchers to be a part of this! Why is this project important? Well, we cover social technologies from a wide range of perspectives — from roles in marketing to IT to technology professionals. Not surprisingly, we find each of these roles differs in its general level of usage of or familiarity with social technologies but that most companies are experiencing pockets of success. However, few, if any, are successfully implementing a social strategy across the board. In fact, full maturity in this space could take years, but there are clear differences in how some ahead-of-the-curve companies are using social technologies for business results.

Up to this point, it has been clearly established by many people (including us many times over) that social technologies are transformative tools that are changing the way companies do business. So with this social maturity effort, we’re not talking as much about the opportunity that social presents, but rather we are trying to determine the current reality of practitioners. It’s also clear that many companies have made tremendous strides in planning and organizing for the use of social technologies. However, the one question we consistently get is, “Where is my organization compared with others in the use of social media?” We want to benchmark these companies — as well as the roles within them — to see if we can answer questions like:

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Nielsen Joins Forces With McKinsey For Social Intelligence Consulting

More news in the Social Intelligence world today, as Nielsen and McKinsey launched a joint partnership to compete deeper in social media. Through "NM Incite," Nielsen combines its Buzzmetrics listening platform technology with McKinsey's management consultants, to offer a broad range of social consulting influenced by social media data and analytics. I spoke to the team earlier and learned that this venture is both a response to growing customer demand for social business consulting and a proactive step in building up offerings that will meet enterprises' future needs, as social media spreads inside and outside the business.

My quick take on this is that I see the announcement as a good leading indicator of the social media market: Many businesses want to harness the power of social media data, but few are currently prepared to make those steps on their own. Businesses need help turning social media data into action. This year many listening platforms have ramped up their consultancy staff and offerings in efforts to keep up with this growing demand. As I'll profile in an upcoming research report on listening platforms' consultancy services (in editing now, likely publishing in a few weeks), successful vendors have a strong dashboard for self-service customers along with professional services teams for data analysis, custom reporting, strategy guidance, and overall support. Now, Nielsen and McKinsey's joint venture ups the ante of the level of consulting services listening platform vendors provide.

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Social Intelligence Meets PR

On this blog I write about the importance of social media channels as a data source for Customer Intelligence professionals. Although that topic may be a bit esoteric, the concept of using social media data to inform business decisions spans well beyond just Customer Intelligence. Today I'm going to diverge from the CI pro because in today's Web driven world of vast amounts of metrics and analytics, more and more businesses turn to data-driven decision making. One of the business lines benefiting most from this today is Public Relations.

PR's gone through a dramatic evolution over the last decade and has been reinvigorated by social media. PR teams' day-to-day tasks shifted from news clippings and phone calls, to online media monitoring and emails, to today's social media monitoring and tweeting with influential sources. Social media, and the wealth of data it holds, provides PR professionals with more information to better conduct their work. Through social metrics they can identify and track influencers, better measure the spread of their company's coverage, and more quickly track potential crises before they spread. This should be no surprise to most, as many of social media's early mavens are also some of PR's leaders.

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Are Cell Phones The Key To Reaching Latin American Consumers?

I am back from beautiful Cartagena, Colombia where the ESOMAR Latin American 2010 conference was held. In addition, last week, I met with media and advertising professionals focusing on the Latin American market in Miami at the annual Portada Panregional Advertising and Media Summit. At both conferences, a consistent theme resonated throughout all the talks — the Internet is a powerful vehicle for Latin American consumers to connect with peers and even companies; however, the digital divide still persists in Latin America.

We find that, on average, 56% of metropolitan consumers in Brazil and Mexico are not online. Therefore, companies are still unable to reach a significant number of consumers through social media tools. Does that mean that if you have identified that the majority of your target audience is not connected that you are on the sidelines and unable to harness the “power” of social media? I think the answer is no.

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Does Your Organization Have A Great Internal/External Social Community?

Each year we conduct a search for the best examples of social media/social communities as part of our search for winners of the prestigious Forrester Groundswell Awards. This year we have added a new category of award aimed at internal communities designed to help management with innovation and/or collaboration across the organization — communities that empower employees.

In the fall I’ll be helping my colleague, Ted Schadler — co-author of the upcoming book Empowered — to judge the winners of the management category. So if you have a social community or social media success story please consider nominating your firm for one or more categories in this year’s awards.

Find out how to submit your nomination through the Forrester Groundswell blog here.

If you are a vendor and helping a client implement a social community you may nominate your client with their permission.

Good luck!

The 2010 Forrester Groundswell Awards

I am pleased to announce that we've just kicked off the 2010 Forrester Groundswell Awards. We are now open to submissions detailing how you've put social media to work for your company. This is the fourth running of the awards (and my third year helping judge and organize the entries), and I am truly excited to see the state of the industry as it continues to mature.

This year I'm specifically looking forward to reviewing the "Listening" category entries. There are a lot of businesses out there that listen to social media, but how many of them achieve Social Intelligence and truly use "listening" to inform their business decisions and drive better marketing? If you can prove the business value of your listening initiatives, please submit your entry for either the B2B or B2C Listening categories.

Last year's B2C Listening winner, NASCAR's Fan Council, used an online community for market research. It conducted three times its planned research goals at 80% less cost -- and discovered insights from fan discussion to change NASCAR rules to include a double-file restart (disclaimer: I don't fully understand NASCAR rules and cannot explain what a "double-file restart" means, but was still impressed that it changed the official rules based on insights from tits customers) and in turn improved overall brand sentiment. NASCAR actually listened to its fans, acted on the insight, and generated real business results -- a real Forrester Groundswell Award winning case.

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