A Deloitte consultant just released result of a study of 100 businesses with online communities. From the WSJ:
One of the hot investments for businesses these days is online communities that help customers feel connected to a brand. But most of these efforts produce fancy Web sites that few people ever visit. The problem: Businesses are focusing on the value an online community can provide to themselves, not the community.
The three main reasons for failure were not surprising:
- Focusing on the technology over the value of the community to its members;
- Failure to assign experienced staff to develop the community;
- Poor or no metrics for measuring success.
Let’s tackle those one at a time:
Bells & Whistles
It is so very tempting to focus on the gee whiz things you can do with technology, especially with the very hot social media arena. However, you have to center all of these efforts on the value you will provide to your anticipated community members, making sure that is aligned to deliver some value for your company or organization when it takes off. Constantly ask yourself “So what?” as you develop your plans. Once you have the value identified you can make rational choices about the technology you choose to deploy.
Leadership and Management
Would you launch a new product or service line without an experienced person to develop and manage it? Not usually, no. The same goes for online communities. They require care and feeding and interaction to do successfully. This requires dedicated staff who can interact with others online effectively and keep your online space focused on the value it should provide to participants and the company. It boggles the mind to read the story linked above and realize many of these companies spent over a $1 million on their site and then put half a staff person in place to run it.
This goes back to value: your measures for success must tell you if you are creating the value you planned to achieve. Are your community members getting value? Is this participation generating value for the sponsoring company? Simply pages views and site registration won’t do. If you goal is to convert community members into customers, be sure you have processes and tools in place to measure that conversion rather than simply hope for the best.
(Story spotted via the most excellent CMSWatch.)