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Communities – Why Should You Care?

I was pleased to attend the inaugural Community 2.0 conference this week. Sponsored by Shared Insights, it was an impressive gathering. Here are some of the highlights:

– John Hegel, the author of Net Gain (and other best sellers) gave his perspective on what has happened in the 10 years since he first wrote on the importance of communities to companies.

His equation for the benefits of communites is as follows: Shared ideas+shared discussions+shared relationships= shared meaning and shared motivation. This leads to higher customer loyalty and feedback that can help facillitate the development of better products and services in the future.

He feels that companies often lack the skillsets required to support successful communities. The key skills lacking are moderating, archiving, and attracting participants. He feels that companies often are afraid to give up the control of the community to the particpants and that is counterproductive.

Like all business practices, communities should be measured. He recommends calculating ROA- return on attention, ROI- Return on Information, and ROS- Return on Skills as the best measures of the impact of communities on the business in general. Space doesn’t permit complete descriptions of these measures. Mr Hagel’s blog and reading list can be found at www.johnhagel.com.

Ben McConnell author of “Church of the Customer” gave a fascinating keynote on the importance of word of mouth in marketing and the importance of communities in generating positive word of mouth. He also reported that only 1 percent of community participants actually contribute entries. However, that can be a large number!! For example, 68,682 individuals contributed to Wikipedia in just one month and 11,420 contributed to Microsofts’s channel nine in a similar time frame. It is amazing how many people are willing to invest their time (while receiving no remuneration) to create information that will be reviewed and scrutinized by many peer reviewers. More examples can be found at ChurchoftheCustomer.com.

Similar statistics were reported during subsequesnt sessions

About.com reports that it has 600 community sites with coverage of over 60,000 topics.
Shawn Gold of MySpace reported some staggering usage figures – They currently have 165 million profiles online that generate 60 Billion pageviews per month. And there are 40,000 videosbeing added to MySpace each day.

The conference finished with a report on the We Are Smarter Than Me project. That will be the subject of another blog entry in the very near future!!

Communities have the potential to help publishers and publishing professionals to create new and different products and to improve the quality of their future products by getting greatly increased customer feedback. Cases and opportunities will be presented at the forthcoming Gilbane Conference in San Francisco from 4/10-4/12.

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1 Comment

  1. Mike Rowland

    Steve,
    Be careful about spreading the ‘gospel’ of the 1% of community members actually contributing content to the community. It is a false god that was put up at Community 2.0…
    We’ve worked with over 40 online communities from AARP to Cisco to SAP and reported on the metrics for all of them. The average percentage of contributors varies tremendously with the type of community.
    For example, an entertainment community with over 500,000 members that we managed had roughly 4% of its registered members adding posts DAILY. But another entertainment community we managed with 100,000 members only had .3% adding posts WEEKLY. A technology community we managed had over 40% of its members contribute content in the form of an initial post, but only 5% contributed an answer.
    So as you can see, the numbers are all over the map. It is an incorrect assumption that 1% will contribute. It can be much higher and it can be much lower. There are far too many variables that come into play to use this assumption as a rule of thumb for creating communities and for building expectations.

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