Category: Online Community

My First Year as a Consultant and what 2016 Holds for Online Communities (I hope)

Sonoma Sunrise

Sonoma Sunrise in honor of the dawn of 2016

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.

  • Launching Structure3C on February 4, 2015 to help brands create successful customer communities and crowdsourcing initiatives
  • 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
  • Being interviewed by Virgin Entrepreneur on Crowdsourcing
  • Holding the closing workshop at the Crowd Companies 2015 Main Event in SF – (you can download my custom workbook from the event)
  • Being honored as one of the inaugural A. Barry Rand Fellows for the Life Reimagined Institute
  • 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.

Getting Real
Obviously, technology plays a critical role in modern business. The problem with many Digital Transformation efforts is a hyperfocus on the technology at the cost strategy and customer relationships.

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.

Market as a Network

 

 

 

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:

Corporations

  • 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.

Vendors

  • 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.

Thought Leaders

  • 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.

Industry Organizers

  • 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.

Book a call here. 

In the spirit of the New Year, I wish you a peaceful and epic 2016. Thank you for helping make Structure3C ‘s first year a success!

Collaborative Economy Roundup for the Week of November 23, 2015

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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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Announcing a New Online Workshop: The Collaborative Economy Kickstart

Every organization in the world is being impacted by the Collaborative Economy in some way. Smart organizations are engaging now by addressing emerging threats and identifying business opportunities.

I created the Collaborative Economy Kickstart as a companion to our longer-form workshops. 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.

Register (and get more info) by clicking on the “Get Tickets” button below.
Collaborative Economy Kickstart

The purpose of the Collaborative Economy Kickstart Workshop is to help Executives quickly understand how the Collaborative Economy will impact their business, and what new business and product opportunities the Collaborative Economy represents.

In the first hour Participants will be given an overview of the Collaborative Economy, including:

  • The key elements of the Collaborative Economy;
  • The three C’s of a Crowd-powered business: Crowd, Community and Collaborative Organization;
  • Case studies and examples of Crowd-powered businesses;
  • A method for identifying opportunities for, and threats to, a Participant’s business;
  • A framework for developing a Crowd-powered business model.

During the second hour Participants will then be guided through an Ideation & Action Planning exercise that helps them:

  • Explore the dimensions of the Collaborative Economy that are relevant to their business and market;
  • Assess the biggest threats and opportunities;
  • Learn to do an asset inventory;
  • Explore opportunities via the Ideation Canvas tool;
  • Create an action plan to more forward immediately after the session.

The workshop will end with 30 minutes of group coaching to explore topics that have surfaced during the overview and action planning sessions.

Participants will leave the session with a better understanding of the Collaborative Economy, an action plan draft and exclusive templates to use within their organization to kickstart their Collaborative Economy journey.

Collaborative Economy Roundup for the Week Ending October 30

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Your Weekly
#‎CollabEcon Roundup for the Week Ending October 30
We hope everyone is geared up for an extra #spooky Halloween weekend. Uber’s latest valuation and funding round might be scary (actually, terrifying!) We’ll get you up to speed on this week’s best #CollabEcon articles. Just settle in with some trick or treat goodies and read the best the web has to offer this week:

1.  “Can the Commission collaborate on the collaborative economy?” via Science|Business – “At a Brussels news conference, top EU officials had different perspectives on taxi-sharing and other aspects of the ‘sharing’ economy.” – https://goo.gl/ioy5jj

2.  “Developing the Sharing Economy” via Economy Watch – “For any policy in this area to be effective, it needs to grapple with and challenge some underlying assumptions about the ‘sharing economy’ and its associated rhetoric.” – http://goo.gl/ylbgbY

3. “Interview with Uber: Creating a Frictionless Experience That Spawned A Generation of Copycats” via PSFK – “The Uber experience has also impacted consumer expectations across industries: if people can call a driver, organize a ride within minutes and pay for their trip at the tap of a button, why shouldn’t all service brands apply this same methodology?” – http://goo.gl/QSdl07

4. “Today’s sharing economy will shape our future” via The Daily Northwestern – “This recent unprecedented rise in the so-called ‘sharing economy’ is not just defining our careers, but also actively reshaping our daily lives and even our mental approach toward consumption.” – http://goo.gl/WWNuKN

5. “Following Uber’s Success, Copycats Rush To Carve Out Niches” via NewsFactor – “Uber has become a hip shorthand for efficient transportation and seamless commerce, a digital darling that turns your smartphone into a matchmaker between you and your ride home.” – http://goo.gl/PlLF1g

6. “FIR Interview: Jeremiah Owyang On Competing In The Collaborative Economy” via FIR Podcast Network – “The collaborative (or sharing) economy is heating up, with dramatic increases in both the number of startups that employ the model and the number of consumers who use them.” – http://goo.gl/DsV8Ha

7. “A Revolt Is Coming for Cloud Labor” via The WorldPost – “We are on the cusp of a revolution in the way work and labor are done.” – http://goo.gl/wucpNX

8.  “A worldwide paradigm shift from ‘sharing’ to ‘collaborative’ economy?” via LabGov– “Most importantly, it’s only if and when each and all of us gets directly involved in such a process that we together can make a difference – suggesting a more than necessary shift toward a more participatory and collaborative economy.” – http://goo.gl/MlcIiY

9.  “The Sharing Economy Doesn’t Need to Be Full of Monopolies” via The Atlantic – “Without checks on their power from consumers, these billion-dollar companies are beholden only to government regulation—and even then, sometimes they shrug that off.” – http://goo.gl/GvvLqC

10. “Corporate Travel Managers Don’t Trust the Sharing Economy” via Skift – “It’s shocking that more corporate travel managers haven’t embraced mobile technology and the sharing economy as ways to reduce costs and gain more accurate data on the habits of their clients.” – http://goo.gl/JCw0n6

Bonus: Bill spoke at Crowdsourcing Week Europe last week in Brussels (the conference was amazing). Presentations from all the sessions have been uploaded here. Do yourself a favor and spend some time with these slides!

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Thoughts on the State of Community Management 2015 Report

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.

You can view the executive summary here:

And register for the full report here.

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?

Preview of the Brands & Collaborative Economy Research Project

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. Crowds, Community & CollaborationWave 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.

Key observations:

  1. A shared understanding of the Collaborative Economy is still forming.
  2. The Collaborative Economy is relevant to organizations, but the level of urgency isn’t high (yet).
  3. The most interesting sectors are Learning, Services and Corporate (“Sectors” as described by Crowd Companies Honeycomb model).
  4. 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.

Relevance and Urgency

 

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.
emerging_BaCC

 

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.
Enablers_BaCC

 

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.

Next Up:
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.

Autodesk Community Evolution

An Award Winning Community Strategy… 30 Years in the Making

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.
Autodesk Community Evolution

Click for larger view

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.