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.
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?
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. Wave 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.
A shared understanding of the Collaborative Economy is still forming.
The Collaborative Economy is relevant to organizations, but the level of urgency isn’t high (yet).
The most interesting sectors are Learning, Services and Corporate (“Sectors” as described by Crowd Companies Honeycomb model).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Two weeks ago my former team and colleagues at Autodesk won a Forrester Groundswell award for “Social Relationship Marketing (Business-to-Business)”. I am very proud of the work the collective team did (and continues to do), and heartened to see that the online community strategies I put in to place continue to bear fruit.
A Rich History
Community has been part of the fabric of Autodesk since the beginning, and as early as 1986 the company was engaging customers in the nascent virtual communities forming around BBS, Compuserve and the like. I came on at the beginning of 2001 to help with a new online community initiative called Point A,one of the first online communities that was also contextually embedded in the product. After the bust of 2001 Point A was retired, but out of the ashes came a thriving online discussion forum community, a robust blogging community, and vertical online communities like AREA, a community for 3D artists and designers. I left Autodesk in 2007, and came back in 2011 to help restart Autodesk’s business community and community-based service initiatives.
Ebbs & Flows
As with many corporate initiatives and functions, attention and focus ebbs and flows – at Autodesk, the fabric of the customer community tended to tear and mend over time. But with every mend, the fabric grew bigger and stronger – and at this point, the community continues to grow stronger every day thanks to a solid strategy, strong community leadership and executive support.
Highlights and the Details
Some highlights of the Community strategy are called out in the Groundswell submission post on the Lithium blog:
In particular, the platform and Customer Experience transformation, the Community Advocacy Program and the Fusion 360 Community are called out. All great examples and components of “Community with a Capital C” at Autodesk. Below are a few presentations I’ve done explaining the strategy and work behind those projects and programs.
The Autodesk Community Transformation
Community Advocacy: Autodesk Expert Elites
The Fusion 360 Community
I left Autodesk in February of this year to launch Structure3c because I saw the opportunity to help organizations connect with their customers and stakeholders through online communties. I think many brands are waking up with a social media hangover and realizing that they have over-invested in 3rd party social networks and are now essentially renting access to their customers and prospects. Further, Online Communities can help create enormous value through peer support, product development, advocacy, crowdsourcing, peer to peer marketplaces and much more.
I’m currently building a select list of clients to work with to build amazing communities. If you would like to schedule some time to talk about how I can help, please drop me a note.
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
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
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
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.
There are vibrant & global conversations happening today and that makes me very happy. As someone who has invested most of their career building online (and offline) communities, it is encouraging to see the “tribe” come together for the day.
On the other hand, it occurs to me that the practice of building and managing online communities is in a critical place. With all the progress, we still have miles to go.
Consider other professions of practice: Imagine if Doctors didn’t agree on foundational concepts and definitions? Imagine if Architects didn’t agree on measurements and scales? Imagine if Musicians allowed themselves to be constrained by the theory they learned at university. I could go on – you get the idea.
Further, online communities as we know them are in a state of evolution: the needs and desires of the typical online “member” are changing; hosted platforms, social networks, mobile apps and in person gatherings are pushing the experience and identity of a community to the point of being ethereal and organizations that host communities are scrambling to make sense.
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.
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 community 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.
You can get multiple versions of the Honeycomb file, a directory of all the businesses in the Honeycomb, and a deeper overview on Jeremiah’s blog post.
Digital Content & Tools?
One cell that I was hoping to see added this time around was Digital Content – maybe “Digital Things”. There are a growing number of communities and networks of people exchanging the digital files, knowledge and expertise needed to make physical goods. Expect these networks and communities of makers, tinkerers, hackers and artists go more mainstream as more people become inspired by the Maker movement and the ease of use for the software and hardware tools becomes better.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I do think the Collaborative Economy is a real and emerging force, poised to disrupt existing brands and create many new ones. Tools like the Honeycomb help capture a snapshot of the current state of a complex system – Thanks to Jeremiah for continuing to analyze, capture and help make meaning from all the activity in the space.