What Makes A Community Successful?

Anyone who follows my research knows that community management is one of my favorite topics. As I speak with marketers about their branded community efforts, the questions that come up most frequently are, “How do I know when my community is 'good?'" and “How many members do I need for my community to be successful?” Interestingly, these are the same questions people would ask me when I was a community manager, before I came to Forrester. Since these questions are clearly on a lot of people’s minds, I set out to answer them — analyst-style.

For my latest report, Community Benchmarking Metrics, I surveyed marketers with branded communities to try to nail down some standard measures of success. What I found was:

  • Standards come in the form of percentages, not hard numbers. For example, in communities that perform on par with averages, 8-12% of the unique visitors to the brand’s main website will visit the community. Of those community visitors, 4-6% will convert to become community members.
  • “Average” performance is consistent across communities of different types, from different industries, and with different goals. 
  •  To achieve typical results, community owners need to go back to basics: Make the community visible and don’t forget to promote it.
  • There are a few things marketers can do to beat the averages. My favorite: have at least one full-time community manager.
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How I'm Using Google+ (Hint: It's About Relevance)

If you were to glance at my Google+ profile, you’d probably think I’m practically inactive. But what you’re seeing is the public view of a very targeted set of actions, based on relevance.

I like to have different kinds of conversations with different people, so when I share content it’s with circles that designate not only relationship but topics too, and Google+ makes it really easy for me to be highly relevant in this way. Take, for example, politics. I like to talk about it, but I’m rarely interested in fighting, so when I share a politically focused news article, it’s not enough to be in my Friends circle. To see it, you have to be in my Friends-Politics circle, where I’ve included people who I know I’ll have an interesting conversation with that won’t result in insults and multiple exclamation points. 

There is one thing missing if relevance is an aim of the platform. As of today, my relevance-based circles only apply to what I share with others. What would be especially helpful would be a way to limit the content I see from others in that circle to the topic I’ve assigned it. For example, I’m following Christian Oestlien, one of the Google+ product managers, specifically for updates about Google+. So while the YouTube music videos and Onion articles he posts are probably funny, I can’t say I’m particularly interested in seeing them from him. Now, if one of the people in my Friends-Hilarious circle posted them, that’s another story . . ..

So what are the implications for brands?

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How Are You Using Social Marketing Management Tools?

Back in April I published a report called Take Control of Your Social Marketing, which looks at the emerging market of social marketing management tools.  In it, I identified three groups of these tools: the social publishing platforms, the social promotion builders, and the platforms that focus on both. 

In the two brief months since that report came out, the volume of questions I get about the topic has skyrocketed.  I can’t say this is surprising, as our own research is showing that many marketers are reaching a level of social marketing maturity at which tools like these can greatly increase the efficiency and success of their programs. There’s also been a lot of press coverage of the moves, changes, and announcements coming out of the vendors in this space, which has undoubtedly raised the profiles of these companies with marketers. 

  • In January, Vitrue, a company that falls into the “concentrating on both” category and which wasn’t able to participate in the original report, announced the closing of a $17 million series C financing round.
  • In February, Syncapse Corp.  made its own financing announcement -- an investment commitment of $25 million.
  • In March, SocialWare announced a partnership with LinkedIn that brings its regulatory compliance expertise and tools to the professionals’ social network.
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Join Forrester’s Tweet Jam About The Social Media Ecosystem: June 7th (Today!) At 2 pm Eastern

It’s Tuesday -- and that means it’s time for another installment of #IMChat, a weekly tweet jam hosted by the interactive marketing team at Forrester. For today’s tweet jam, we’ve invited Shawn Shahani (@shawnshahani) from iCrossing to talk with us about challenges and possible solutions for companies with large and complex social presences.

Here are some of the questions we'll be discussing:

1)     In which social networks does your company currently maintain presences?
2)     How are you using these social media properties differently?
3)     Do you have multiple presences within a social network?
4)     How do you separate multiple presences? Geography, brands, job function?
5)     Who manages different social media presences and properties?

To participate, just follow the #IMChat hashtag at 2:00 p.m. If you’d like to learn more about the rules of engagement, visit this community discussion on The Forrester Community For Interactive Marketing Professionals. To read some past archives, visit the documents section of the same community.

Looking forward to hearing from you at 2 p.m.!

Join Forrester's Tweet Jam About YOU: May 24th (Today!) At 2pm US Eastern

As you may have seen, for the past two weeks we’ve run a tweet jam called #IMChat. Our first two topics, CORE and social influence, were well received but really about what Forrester folks think is interesting. So it’s time to turn the social media table around. What are you interested in? What do you want to talk about with your peers?

To participate, just follow the #IMChat hashtag at 2:00 p.m. If you’d like to learn more about the rules of engagement, visit this community discussion on The Forrester Community For Interactive Marketing Professionals. To read some past archives, visit the documents section of the same community.

Here are some of the questions we'll be discussing during today’s tweet jam:

1.       What digital marketing initiatives are most important to your success within your organization?

2.      What digital marketing initiative causes you the most headaches? Why?

3.      What resources do you currently use to find answers to your digital marketing questions?

4.      How do you utilize digital marketing peers in your day-to-day decision making? Are they external or internal resources?

5.       How do you utilize third-party vendors and agencies in your digital marketing programs?

Join Forrester's Tweet Jam On CORE: May 10th At 2pm US Eastern

Recently you’ve heard and seen a lot about a new concept — CORE — where we at Forrester think interactive marketing is heading. CORE is a four part concept that states that to compete in the digital future marketers must: 1) customize marketing experiences; 2) optimize decisions and processes; 3) respond to changing marketing conditions; and 4) empower staff and customers to advocate for you.

If you're interested in hearing about how you and your peers can move from one phase of CORE to the next, join me (@melissarparrish) and other interactive marketers on Twitter next Tuesday, May 10, at 2 p.m. US Eastern Time.  To participate, just follow the hashtag #IMChat.  Joining me will be Forrester analysts Shar Vanboskirk, Sean Corcoran (@SeanCor), and Elizabeth Shaw (@shaw_smith2) — and interactive marketers from FedEx who will tell us how they've implemented CORE.

Here are some of the questions we'll be discussing during next week’s TweetJam:

  1. After taking the CORE diagnostic test (included below), what surprised you?
  2. What one aspect of CORE is most urgent for you to prioritize?
  3. How do you think your industry or company type (B2B versus B2C) impacts your prioritization?
  4. How can you go about implementing CORE? How long will it take? Will you create an action plan first or dive right in?
  5. What does this mean for your current staffing? Will you need to find more talent or a new partner?
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Q&A With Seth Priebatsch, Chief Ninja (Read: CEO) Of SCVNGR

If you haven't yet heard Seth Priebatsch, chief ninja of SCVNGR — a mobile company looking to gamify the world — address a conference audience, you're in for a treat. It's something that I and about 20,000 of my closest friends and colleagues were fortunate to experience at SXSW this year, and for those of you attending Forrester's Marketing Forum next week, you'll see why the pleasure was all ours. 

For a taste of Seth's personality, you need look no further than his bio ("An avid supporter of blood drives, Seth consistently donates plasma for use in large-screen televisions.") For a glimpse at what he'll be talking about at the forum, check out the description for his session "The Perils Of "Wait-And-See" Marketing Strategy: Five "Future" Trends For The Present." 

Lest you fear that he'll be all jokes and pie-in-the-sky outlooks, I've asked Seth a few questions about what "gamification" means and what potential there is for growth in the location-based marketing arena. You'll see from his answers that while he's obviously a future-thinker, he's also a practical-talker. 

Here's a taste of what you can expect in San Francisco next week:

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Mobile For Marketing: Is It A Channel Or A Device?

Marketers often ask me what their mobile strategy should be: What are the key elements? How can they make sure it’s successful? Where should they put their money? These may sound like simple questions, but given how complex the technology and landscape are there’s a lot more involved in answering them than it may appear at first glance.

In an effort to unravel the complicated answers to these questions, I undertook some research that led me to the essential question that lurks behind marketers’ inquiries but is rarely stated:  Is “mobile” a true marketing channel that demands its own strategic expertise and focus, or is it simply a different device through which consumers come into contact with messages you've already established for other campaigns? The answer is that it’s both. 

In my latest report, "Evolving Your Mobile Marketing Presence," I talk about how marketers are working through the stages of mobile skills and strategy development in an effort to approach mobile as wisely as possible. After talking with marketers, vendors, and agencies, these are the phases I identified:

For more information about each of these phases and how marketers are tackling them, Forrester clients can access the complete report at the link above.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m going to be focusing on mobile marketing for much of this year, so I’m very interested in hearing about your own experiences. Have you asked yourselves the device versus channel question? How are you approaching each of these phases?

Consumer Privacy And Marketers: Let's Talk Terms

I recently read about a California ruling that prohibits most offline merchants from collecting ZIP codes for credit card transactions. According to the LA Times:

The high court determined that ZIP Codes were "personal identification information" that merchants can't demand from customers under a state consumer privacy law.”

One justice was more specific about the ruling, saying that the privacy law in question was intended to prohibit retailers from collecting and storing consumer information that wasn't necessary to the transaction.

The attorney who brought the law suit took the implications further saying that, “the decision would help protect consumers from credit card fraud and identity theft.”

So there are actually 2 issues here:

1)       The collection of non-essential data
AND
2)      Security problems that facilitate the use of the data for illegal purposes

The marketing and privacy discussion is full of complex issues being conflated in similar ways. Even terms like “consumer data” and “privacy” are so loaded that there are conversations between parties using the same words, but not talking about the same thing.

Most marketers are interested in data that gives them a better understanding of their audiences overall. Generally, we’re not talking about marketers collecting the kind of personal information on your credit report — complete address, bank accounts, etc. Most of you reading this post are well acquainted with this distinction, but are consumers? I suspect most aren’t.

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2011 Mobile Marketing Predictions

In the last few months, we've talked a lot about how quickly the mobile marketing space is moving — and with nearly 75% of marketers telling us they're implementing or planning to implement mobile campaigns in the next year, we're not expecting the pace to slow any time soon.

Since we've just switched over to our 2011 calendars, now is the time to make some predictions about what that mobile marketing growth is really going to look like. In our new report, we take a look at:

  • The potential for marketer-branded application fatigue. (Warning: Those allergic to puns may want to tread lightly on this section.)
  • Emphasis on interactive fundamentals — like display and search — for the mobile marketer.
  • The carving out of mobile-specific expertise both within and independent of interactive teams.
  • Innovation on the marketing potential of location-based services.

Forrester clients can read the full report here. Whether you're a client or not, I invite you to share your own mobile marketing predictions in the comments below. What do you think will happen in the world of mobile marketing this year?

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