Hi Folks – a quick post to let you know that I am leading a discussion at the #OCTribe Online Community Meetup in SF this Wednesday night.
I’ve been involved with this meetup for many years, and it is an honor to be asked to speak!
Description and registration information follow. I hope we can meet Wednesday night!
Online Communities are Your Organization’s Future
I will present and then lead a discussion on:
Why 20th century businesses aren’t adapting to 21st century realities, including mobile
Why we need a fundamentally new and more expansive approach to building online communities in our evolving global economy (hint: mobile)
How to manage one of the most important (and misunderstood / undervalued) organizational functions
Why the roles of “Community Manager” and the Community Team need to evolve
Emerging opportunities for businesses to create and exchange new forms of value with their communities and, in the process, become more sustainable.
This meetup and group is always high signal / low noise.
Online Communities are Critical to Your Company’s Future with Bill Johnston
Wednesday, Jan 27, 2016, 7:00 PM
Location details are available to members only.
35 Online Community Managers & Fans Attending
In January, join us for a talk from community pioneer Bill Johnston that will set your communities on the right track for 2016.Online Communities are Critical to Your Company’s Future• 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 …
We know companies that invest in creating networks of relationships perform better than those that don’t. We also know that customers connected to a company’s “network of relationships” are more valuable. One of the best ways to create a customer network is to develop online communities. There are myriad vendors, platforms, consultants and thought leaders helping develop the space. We seem to have all the pieces on the table for success.
So, why is it still so damned complicated to develop customer communities? I see 5 reasons:
1. Indulgence of Complexity
Vendors, analysts and (i hate to say it) some community “experts”make community technology and programs unnecessarily complex in order to position themselves as a solution. Lean, customer-focused approaches aren’t as opaque or profitable as slow, heavyweight and complex technology and approaches.
2. The Inertia of the Support Community Model
Most online communities in the enterprise side evolved out of support forums, and so did most of the platforms on the market. Many first wave community managers cut their teeth in support and / or forums-based experiences. Most Community Advocate programs were based on the Microsoft MVP model, which was optimized around support use cases. We learned a lot in the industry from the Support Community model, no question. The problem is that Support Communities aren’t sustainable in the long term, and many (including me) are predicting their demise in the next 3-5 years. Support Communities are based on customers doing support work for free. With the rise of knowledge marketplaces and microconsulting services, any intrinsic motivation to volunteer for tech companies is going to quickly wain. If your overarching community strategy is predicated on massive quantities of free labor from your customers, I’m sorry to say the free ride is over.
Disconnected organizations and teams lead to disconnected customer experiences. A modern community that delivers a connected customer experience requires a level of cross-functional collaboration most organizations don’t understand.
5. Fractured Understanding of the Customer
A fractured approach to customer experience inevitably leads to a fractured understanding of the customer and multiple silos of valuable customer data. An understanding customer needs and behaviors is key to designing the optimum customer community experience and improving performance of Customer Lifecycle Marketing performance.
The net: The current model for developing online communities is overcomplicated and entirely misses the mobile opportunity. Let’s fix it.
A new way to work: Network Thinking
Over the coming weeks I will be expanding on an idea that can help you develop an optimum customer community & community-based marketing strategy. The concept is Network Thinking.
Starting your own Network Thinking is simple. There are five questions at the core of Network Thinking:
WHO are your customers?
WHY are they motivated to build relationships with each other?
WHERE do they want to build relationships with each other?
HOW do they want to build relationships with each other?
WHAT value can you provide as a HOST to strengthen and deepen these relationships over time?
Answering these five simple questions forms a succinct and cogent foundation for your next strategic steps. I would encourage you to spend 15 minutes answering the questions as completely as you can, and also noting what barriers prevent you from forming any answers.
The Value of Network Thinking:
Network Thinking will bring a new approach to building relationships between customers, at scale. You will gain immediate clarity around objectives and approach. You will create long-term value in the form of sustained customer relationships, lower customer acquisition costs and expanding your community into the mobile ecosystem.
I am deeply excited by this new apporach and look forward to sharing the concepts, possibilities and customer case examples with you over the coming weeks.
A recent benchmarking report from Demand Metric on Customer Lifecycle Marketing illustrates the impact of aligning marketing efforts around a customer journey model. The report also illustrates a number of blindspots that are derailing Customer Lifecycle Marketing efforts.
The missing ingredient? Community Management.
First, highlights from the report (direct quote):
The analysis of this study’s data provides these key findings:
The study found that less than 20% of organizations are currently marketing across the entire customer lifecycle.
Participants spend twice as much of their marketing budgets on acquiring new customers as on retaining existing ones. (Yet most of their revenue comes from existing customers!)
Almost 90% of the study participants indicate that marketing currently owns the understanding and management of the customer lifecycle.
Of the lifecycle stages – Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention and Advocacy – Awareness enjoys the greatest clarity of ownership, with marketing owning the stage 88% of the time. Retention is most fragmented, with few organizations defining clear ownership of this stage.
The Awareness and Consideration stages enjoy “adequate” or “ample” levels of investment for over 70% of study participants. Retention and Advocacy both fall at the “minimal” to “none” level of funding for 55% of study participants.
The greatest benefit to executing a customer lifecycle marketing strategy is greater customer engagement.
The greatest challenge to marketing across the customer lifecycle is understanding customer content needs.
72% of strategy adherents are experiencing a revenue lift from customer lifecycle marketing.
Over three-fourths of participants plan to increase their commitment to and investment in customer lifecycle marketing.
Clearly Customer Lifecycle Marketing is incredibly valuable when all stages of the lifecycle are addressed. So what is the problem? Based on my direct experience and years of studying the intersection of marketing and online community, I would assert that building meaningful relationships at scale is still an undeveloped function in the majority of most organizations. Further, as the data from the report shows, the “ownership” for customer retention is scattered among many departments. Add to the mix the eternal debate about “who owns social / community” and things get even more messy.
So what is a modern marketing organization to do? Consider three things:
Community Drives Customer Lifecycle
A modern definition of online communities expands the location of “community” to be any on or offline touchpoint where customers can meet and form relationships. A modern definition also expands the concept of community management to include any form of relationship building and nurturing. Modern online communities produce a range of value for customers and businesses. Peer to peer support is the classic example, yet modern approaches include a range of deep collaboration on new product development to expansive crowdfunding campaigns – and everything in between. Community can play a valuable role in every stage of the customer lifecycle, and can often be the connective tissue to hold the entire experience together.
Treat Engagement & Retention as a Community Management Opportunity
The practice of building and nurturing customer relationships is a job modern community managers understand very well. In particular, Community Managers can be very effective as resources in Customer Nurture campaigns during the consideration phase. I had my community management team at Autodesk reboot a nurture campaign that supported a 30 day product trial, and the results were amazing.
Further, Customer Advocacy programs grew (at least partially) out of Community Advocate / MVP programs. It is a relatively straightforward process to scale current Advocacy programs to include different customer types. There is also a massive opportunity to harmonize Influencer programs (which typically look outside of existing communities) with Advocacy programs. These are essentially two sides of the same coin – Advocates have typically been nurtured through a hosted community and Influencers have established their own communities and networks. A modern Community Manager treats these contexts as part of the larger community ecosystem.
Treating engagement and retention as a community management opportunity allows the staff with the skills to manage relationships at scale do what they do best. This is a huge missed opportunity in marketing.
Get Real About Digital Transformation & Social Business
A modern approach to online community takes into account the entire digital ecosystem, not just single online touchpoints. A modern approach to community management nurtures engagement across the digital ecosystem. So if Community Managers know how to address the key gaps illustrated in the Demand Metric report, what’s the problem? Why isn’t it happening? There are many answers, but one factor that has had a huge negative impact is the trend of Digital Transformation initiatives absorbing (or in some cases, abandoning) Social Business efforts. I expand on (and in some ways, rant about) this in my 2015 recap post. Most Digital Transformation initiatives have focused on technology at the cost of customer engagement. Many Social Leadership teams and organizations have been disbanded or fractured and embedded to the point of being ineffective. Customer Experience initiatives often focus on superficial and in the moment customer engagements at the cost of growing the life long relationship.Bottom Line: We need a new Leadership model that addresses not only the Company : Customer relationship but also the complex network of Customer : Customers : Company relationships.
Netting it out:
To create successful Customer Lifecycle Marketing initiatives, modern marketers must include online community and community managers.
Community Managers can help address the current engagement and retention gaps in Customer Lifecycle Marketing programs.
Organizations need to renew focus and investment in Online Community Leadership to drive growth via Customer Lifecycle Marketing
I am working with a portfolio of clients on evolving their community and marketing programs (lifecycle, influencer & advocacy, community management). I am also kicking off the year by offering a complimentary consultation session (for a limited time & very limited slots). If you would like to get feedback and guidance on your 2016 plans, feel free to register for a consultation here.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to do this. I’m already rolling eyes at all the “prediction” posts. And there are way too many 2015 retrospectives to look back on… but I’m feeling optimistic and inspired! You are taking the time to read this – THANK YOU! I have had an incredible amount of support for my first year of Structure3C. Thank you for being part of it.
This is a long-ish post – the short version is a list of personal highlights from 2015, and a look ahead to 3 big ideas and aspirations for 2016.
A Look back at the first year of Structure3C
Thank you for letting me take a moment to reflect on a few key accomplishments from this year.
Chairing the inaugural Collaborative Economy conference in San Francisco in March
Conducting the first research study on Brands & The Collaborative Economy – exploring a range of organizations level of knowledge, interest, priority and current activities in the Collaborative Economy
Having a number of prominent speaking engagements, including SxSWi, Social Business Forum 2015 (Milan), The Silicon Valley Boomer Business Summit and Crowdsourcing Week Europe (Brussels)
Helping a growing portfolio of brand and startup clients with briefings, crowdsourcing strategy, online community development and product design
And on a personal note: I made a commitment to my family to be present more throughout the year – one lagging indicator of success is the number of pancakes and pieces of french toast made in 2015 numbers just shy of 1,000! (disclaimer: back of the napkin calculation)
3 Big Ideas for 2016:
1.) Beyond “Digital Transformation”
In 2015, it seemed like Digital Transformation ate the business world. Almost overnight, the big consultancies dropped “Social Business” and began to sell Digital Transformation strategies. Thought leaders and former champions of social published articles and books about establishing, then disrupting “Digital Business”. Former Social Centers of Excellence were abandoned or repurposed for the “new” digital business journey.
In some ways, this is completely logical. Big consultancies need to keep clients anxious and their armies of consultants employed. Thought leaders need a constant stream of new terms, concepts and frames to stay relevant and top of mind. Executives need to frame annual objectives in ways that are novel and show progress year over year.
And, let’s face it: Social, Community, Customer Collaboration are all hard. Really hard.
Further, the definition of “Social Business” was always somewhat nebulous, and the internal culture shift and alignment needed to be successful was an arduous task. Pursuing a primarily technology-driven agenda likely seems more attainable, and “Digital” is an easier sell – both the perceived value and anticipated results.
What is lost in the shift from social to digital is the opportunity to fully realize the business value of connected customer relationships at scale. Realized specifically through strategies based on networks, communities and deep collaboration. Sound nebulous? I’ve shaped and seen first hand the value of social and community in the form of increased direct revenue, increased loyalty, crowd driven products and early market dominance based on building communities in parallel with products. Examples: The quantified value of Dell’s IdeaStorm was in the hundred’s of millions of dollars, Dell’s TechCenter community had billions of dollars in impact on Large Enterprise sales, Autodesk’s support community saves the company millions of dollars a year… I could go on.
2.) Digital / Social Business reframed as Business, Networked
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 true partnership with customers, not an internal social network no one really uses.
In order to begin exploring business opportunities in the networked 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
3.) Radical New Leadership
To truly make progress in the evolving online community strategy we need new leadership, and evolved (not incremental) vision. This requires a shift from quarterly-driven decision making by businesses and a “sell what we have” mentality from our collective social vendors. Specifically:
A new function that owns customer experience across every touchpoint – and further – owns developing the 1:Many relationships in the market network, not just 1:1
A new Executive to lead this function
Integration of platforms, systems and customer data that create internal efficiencies, better customer experiences, and put the customer in control of their experience, relationships and data
A new point of view on value, and specifically, the value of customer engagement and participation. The days of customers supporting other customers without compensation are coming to an end.
We need a bolder vision for online community platforms and social media & network tools. Platforms now are: 1) optimized around specific functions, like peer to peer support 2) are incredibly hard to customize and 3) are incredibly hard to integrate. We need better from you.
Reign in sales-driven organizations that over-promise and under-deliver on community quality and outcomes.
We need vendors to come together on feature & data standards and interoperability. Just to pick a specific example: The current disconnect between CRM, Marketing Automation and Community Platforms (even from the SAME vendor) is unbelievable. Invest in fixing it.
You need something new to talk about and sell. I get it. I humbly ask:
Connect the dots between your concepts, especially when retiring an old concept for a new one.
Talk to your peers in the industry when selling new ideas so clients aren’t dealing with 10 flavors of the same burning platform concept.
Show your source data when you have it.
Attribution is appreciated. Especially for concepts you are essentially recycling.
Show you really care about the future of the industry by cooperating on standard definitions, benchmarks and training
Try to coordinate conference data and overarching themes
When collecting practice data you intend to use for consulting or products, please provide a disclaimer at point of collection.
Do you agree? What would you add to this list?
With that said, 2016 is shaping up to be even more fun.
A preview includes:
An upcoming announcement for a series of Crowd Economy “Rapid Orientation Workshops”
Select speaking engagements focused on describing a Modern Approach to Online Community Building by developing Market Networks
Ongoing research into how Brands continue to evolve their Crowd and Community business strategies
An expanded set of consulting offerings, including modules for leadership & team development, value / ROI analysis and scorecard development.
Should we talk? I’m offering a limited number of free introductory consultations (via phone). I’d love to learn more about your community & crowd plans for 2016, and I promise your will take away new ideas from our call.
As the United States prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, the team at Structure3C is thankful for another great week of growth and development in the #CollaborativeEconomy. We also have some exciting news to share: Bill Johnston (Founder of Structure3C) was nominated in the first cohort of Fellows for the Life Reimagined Institute. Read the full news release here.
1. “Uber Is Not the Future of Work” via The Atlantic – “The rise of Uber has convinced many pundits, economists, and policymakers that freelancing via digital platforms is becoming increasingly important to Americans’ livelihood.” – http://goo.gl/jfnDJH
2. “How Segment Models Growth for Two-Sided Marketplaces” via Segment – “Marketplaces are awesome because, without them, buyers and sellers face complex, risky, and time-consuming transactions.” – https://goo.gl/1vfyjF
3. “Airbnb Banishes NY Superhosts” via rented. – “Airbnb “superhosts” awoke on November 12th to news that their listings had been removed and all of their future reservations had been cancelled.” – http://goo.gl/vGQ23p
4. “How to Start Using the Sharing Economy for Your Events” via Successful Meetings – “Because they’re convenient and affordable, service like Airbnb and Uber are growing more popular by the day.” – http://goo.gl/q98Iy3
5. “How to Market Collaborative Consumption Businesses” via Business 2 Community – “Collaborative consumption gives people the temporary benefits of ownership while reducing personal burden and, in many cases, lowering environmental impact. – http://goo.gl/jeEV4L
6. “A sharing economy for governance? 3 ingredients for sustainable cities” via GreenBiz – “When governments consult cities in the development of national policies and openly work with them to localize legislation, it creates a sharing economy for governance.” – https://goo.gl/fuQOgv
7. “There’s a simple step Airbnb and Uber can take to make the sharing economy safer” via Quartz – “A regulatory system developed over decades oversees hotel companies, taxi services and retailers, attempting to protect the health, safety and security of the people who use those services. But these rules and regulations largely do not apply in the sharing economy.” – http://goo.gl/P2c0ug
8. “Is the Gig Economy Good for Workers?” via Triple Pundit – “The growth of freelance, contract, consulting and gig workers in recent years has caused policy makers to re-evaluate how workers and wages are counted in state and national employment figures.” – http://goo.gl/TaMikA
9. “Why Digital Marketing Should Join the Sharing Economy” via Marketing Land – “At its core, the sharing economy is about fostering collaboration to turn underutilized resources into new revenue streams.” – http://goo.gl/I6uiLV
10. “Uber’s chief adviser on benefits of the sharing economy” via CNBC – “Part of our challenge is to sit down with the government and explain what’s on the other side of this.” – http://goo.gl/whTKCR
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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.
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
This week saw 2 major events in public policy & politics related to the Collaborative Economy: The defeat of Prop F, which sought to limit the rights of AirBNB hosts and the SEC approving an expanded set of rules for equity crowdfunding. See something we missed? Email us, we’d love to hear from you.
1. “Housing and Homeless Activists Storm and Occupy Airbnb HQ” via SF Weekly – “A day before San Francisco voters will decide whether to regulate ‘home-sharing’ more strictly, the activists sought to show the short-term rental company what ‘sharing’ is all about.” – http://goo.gl/IUwyFK
2. “After S.F. ballot victory, Airbnb to create global army of political supporters” via Upstart Business Journal – “Airbnb’s $8.5 million campaign against Proposition F may have won it a victory in a battle over short-term home rental restrictions in San Francisco, but the tech company isn’t slowing down its political efforts any time soon.” AirBNB will “start 100 home-sharing clubs across the United States and internationally, creating an army of supporters to take on future political battles.”
3. “Announcing a New Online Workshop: The Collaborative Economy Kickstart” via Structure3C – “In 2.5 hours, participants will get a briefing on the Collaborative Economy, a facilitated exercise to guide ideation and action planning and 30 minutes of group coaching to begin their journey in the Collaborative Economy.” – http://goo.gl/3RrHHu
4. “The SEC Just Approved Rules Opening Up Equity Crowdfunding to the General Public In a 3-1 Vote” via Entrepreneur – “With the passing of this new set of rules, entrepreneurs can sell pieces of their companies to anyone who has the interest and cash to do so.” – http://goo.gl/jEGSHL
5. “How Platform Coops Can Beat Death Stars Like Uber to Create a Real Sharing Economy” via Shareable – “It might be the most important economic decision we ever make, but most of us don’t even know we have a choice.” – http://goo.gl/uTCZUw
6. “How the Sharing Economy Can Improve Your Next Business Trip” via Harvard Business Review – “If you want to use on-demand apps to squeeze every last minute of value out of your travel, you can and should make them part of your trip from the moment you start planning.” – https://goo.gl/DsqTOb
7. “How Developing Nations Can Leapfrog Developed Countries with the Sharing Economy” via The World Post – “A recent study by Zogby Analytics found that 54 percent of millennials are attracted to the notion of sharing goods, services and experiences in Collaborative Commons.” – http://goo.gl/jr8cmx
8. “Being a part of the sharing economy” via the Economic Times – “Meanwhile, cities and countries around the world have had to decide whether to treat sharing companies as innovators or scofflaws.” – http://goo.gl/t3QcP3
9. “The future of the sharing economy: boom, brand or bust” via Marketing Magazine – “These companies are a response to consumer demand for efficiency, value and convenience and, in the process, are dramatically altering the business models of their industries.” – http://goo.gl/pNIR1r
10. “The Sharing Economy Is Booming in Helsinki: Here’s Why” via Truthout – “Helsinki’s sharing scene puts the lie to the widespread misapprehension that the sharing economy comprises only a handful of major for-profit players (Uber, Airbnb), and serves as an example of how local history and culture can positively shape a technology-influence social and economic change.” – http://goo.gl/U3OHpR
11. “Is The Legal Profession Ready For The Sharing Economy?” via Above the Law – “While in many ways the emerging sharing economy represents an entirely new way of doing business that is disrupting the old order, sharing economy companies still rely on the age-old concept of trust to promote transactions between actors.” – http://goo.gl/etUND4