Over 40% of business technology decision-makers indicate that support forums, discussion forums, and professional social networks influence them throughout their online journey. Yet many marketers overlook the impact of the conversations that occur within these networks.
Chances are your company has an online community that requires your attention. Whether you have a support forum on your corporate website, a company page on LinkedIn, or a brand page on Facebook, somewhere there is a community of customers, partners, and influencers that is talking about your brand.
It is up to you to take advantage of this opportunity to interact with your community members, but it requires a new marketing mindset. It requires a shift from traditional media creation to social capital creation. It requires an ability to engage and motivate influencers. It also requires time, energy, and commitment from you and the stakeholders within your organization.
It is difficult to ignore the impact that community interactions have on decision-makers. But why do online communities often fail? We speak to many clients who struggle with establishing their communities and found five common mistakes:
1. Choosing the wrong approach. Communities are not a “one size fits all” strategy for customer engagement. Companies must understand how and where their customers and prospects prefer to engage online and the types of activities that will drive member participation.
The silver lining on Apple's iOS6 Maps App snafu is that it has fueled much humorous poking. My favorite so far is the photo going around Facebook of Tom Hanks in "Cast Away." There is also a blog called "The Amazing iOS 6 Maps" that includes a collection of Maps mishaps sent in by users. It seems that negative product and service experiences often turn into comedy (remember "United Breaks Guitars"?). A funny photo or link shared on Facebook is often how product issues are initially brought to our attention.
Disqus, a SaaS commenting platform that companies can embed in any website page, just announced a funding round of $10 million yesterday. In the same announcement, they stated that they are reaching 500 million unique visitors a month across 750,000 different websites, including major media sites like both CNN and Fox News, as well as many high tech news sources, such as ReadWriteWeb (which wrote an article on the announcement).
As a B2B marketer, why does this matter to you? Because B2B sites can learn from these largely media or consumer examples. B2B sites that want to enable community and commenting on their pages, including blog posts, need to make it extremely simple to engage using whichever of your social identities (and resulting social networks) you want to bring to the site.
Requiring a unique login in order to get an IT developer to share feedback on your new server architecture, for example, makes it easier to capture information in your CRM system, but your visitors want to add value to their existing social identities. Allowing visitors to engage with you using their preferred identities creates a valuable service for them by strengthening their preferred online identity. See the screenshot below for what this looks like with Disqus. This may increase their willingness to engage on your website instead of across the Internet.
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.
As you might have read, the Interactive Marketing analyst team has been growing. What you might not know yet is that I’m one of the new recruits.
I’m one of those practitioners who’s been working with social media since before we called it that — early on at Bolt.com and most recently at Time Inc. Check out my profile for more details about me.
I imagine it’ll come as no surprise that social media is one of my coverage areas. I’ll be looking at the operational, tactical side of social media — especially topics related to community management. Speaking of which, my first piece of writing as an analyst was published in this month’s issue of CRM Magazine. If you have a chance to read it, I hope you’ll come back here and share your feedback.
In addition to social media, I’ll be tackling some emerging topics for interactive marketers, like e-readers and other mobile devices. My early research agenda is sketched out and my first document, a checklist to prepare for community management, will be published in the next few weeks. Following that, I’ll be working on the Community Platforms Forrester Wave, but if there are particular questions you have about any of my coverage areas, or specific pieces of research that would be of interest or help to you, please add a comment and let me know.