Cross-posted from the Online Community Report.
We received approximately 90 responses. Participants represent a healthy swath of the types of organizations participating in online community activities, including: software, hardware, entertainment, media, independent consultants and a handful of non-profits.
We saw plenty to be concerned about. Several respondents were facing layoffs, or were having there community projects suspended. Budgets are hiring were frozen for some. But, we also saw a lot of data to be optimistic about including the fact that the majority of respondents reported continued support of their community activities, and in some cases, increased support.
Highlights from the report include:
Overall Affect of the Economy on Online Communities
We asked: “Please rate how the economy has affected your overall online community strategy and operations to date, with 1 = Unaffected and 5 = Most Negatively Affected”
The average rating that respondents gave in response to the overall affect that the economy has on their online community to date was 2.43.
Most of the respondents 81% (66) indicated that their online community strategy and operations to date was either unaffected or somewhat affected, whereas only 19% (15) respondents rated their online community had been more negatively affected, to date.
The most affected areas to date were:
- Respondents rated Contractor Staffing (average rating of 2.7),
- Platform Budget (average rating of 2.4) and
- Full Time Staffing (average rating of 2.3).
Changes in Staffing
We asked “Do you plan on making any immediate (next 30 days) changes to your online community staffing, for example changes in head count, consolidated positions, layoffs?”
Most of the respondents 71% (60) said that they would NOT be making any immediate changes to their online community staffing, the remaining 29% (25) said they would make specific changes. BUT… The most common change in community staffing that the 25 participants said they were going to enforce during the next 30 days was increasing their number of Full Time Employees. This included new staff, as well as converting contractors to full time.
Obviously, there was bad news here as well. Several folks mentioned decreasing FTE’s and contractors, and 3 respondents said there community project had been, or was being shut down all together.
We asked: Have your internal stakeholders (execs, management) attitudes toward the value of the online community changed because of current economic pressure?
Slightly more than half of the respondents (55%) said that their company internal stakeholder’s attitudes have changed towards the value of the online community because of the current economic pressure. For those whose stakeholder’s attitudes that had changed, over half of the respondents (55%) indicated that their internal stakeholder’s considered their online community more valuable because of the current economic pressures.
About a quarter (26%) respondents whose stakeholder’s attitudes that had changed indicated that their internal stakeholder’s considered their online community LESS VALUABLE because of the current economic downturn. The reasons given for this were because more focus was being placed on other advertising or on core products, less funding was available or in some cases the community had been relinquished altogether.
Slightly less than a quarter (19%) respondents said that their internal stakeholders are closely monitoring the Return On Investment (ROI) of their online community to consider its value.
Of the folks who commented on increased support:
Communities now getting more executive support and more commitment for 2009.
More important now than ever. We are a membership organization, and we see this is an important way to deliver value for membership, particularly in a time when our customers are unable to travel.
There is a more intense focus on community and social media as a more cost-effective way to promote and sell products.
Increased urgency or emphasis on using new technology and the world of online communities to cut operating costs and expand business opportunities.
The final report will be published to our Online Community Research Network members and research participants later this week.
The full report (~45 pages) expands on the content above, as well covering specific budget items that will likely be affected in 2009, tactics that community executives are employing in the downturn, and peer advice on thriving in the downturn, and will include all collected data, charts from the date, and all write in responses.
The full report will also be available for purchase.