Updated: Jan 3
Written by: Larry Goodfellow
We recently covered Part One of a recent report Keys to Community Readiness and Growth: How Brands Prepare for Online Community written by Vanessa DiMauro and Jessica Fish who conducted research with 400 plus individuals who have a market research online community or are thinking of getting an online community. The first part of their report which we earlier covered shares insights about companies that have already launched a community. In this second part of their research report we see the focus shift to companies who are considering getting a community, what they expect and the hesitations that keep them from getting a community.
The main reasons DiMauro and Fish cite for companies getting a community are for customer satisfaction and retention. The authors wanted to see if the reasons for getting a community were different between those who already have one and those that are still deliberating. The one startling difference between those who already have a community and those who are still deliberating had to do with executive support. Of those with a community, 56% said they had found strong executive support, while those who didn’t have a community only reported 50%. In fact, in all other questions regarding building a strong business foundation, those without a community had reported a greater need and business case, than those with the community. So whether you have a strong case and can support the creation of a community more than another company, it seems to ultimately rest on the executive leadership’s desire to create an online research community.
The study also looked at the expectations respondents had of community members. This was done to see if any perspective shifts were needed so that companies looking to start a community wouldn’t be disappointed with unrealistic expectations. When asked what the main activities of the members would be, the top answer for getting a community was to share ideas and help other members. This expectation is in line with what those with branded communities are experiencing. The second highest answer as to what respondents expected from a community, was to amplify the message and get member advocacy programs. This second response has to do with marketing and having members join simply so they can advocate for a brand. This is an unrealistic expectation, since individuals don’t join for this reason, nor do they care to advocate for a brand. DiMauro and Fish suggest that by thinking members will join a community simply to advocate on a brand’s behalf might show that they truly aren’t ready for a branded community. This belief is an indicator that a company needs to rethink their expectations of members so that they avoid having an unsuccessful community.
An important aspect of creating a successful market research community or (MROC) involves being prepared to hire the correct manager to run the community. Respondents were asked whether they would hire a community manager and ensure it was staffed properly. DiMauro and Fish’s research showed that of those considering to get an online community, only 64% of respondents said they would be hiring someone in house to run their community, while a third of those considering communities didn’t see the need for a full-time community manager. While 9 out of 10 successful communities have at least one full-time community manager, many have more than one. A common concern among companies in the pre-community stage involves wondering whether they will have enough work for their community manager. In response to this question DiMauro and Fish state, “The answer to this question is a resounding yes, provided the community manager is responsible for a variety of member-and marketing-related services.” Community managers need to continue showing the need and importance of their work.
When asked what the top concern regarding starting a community was, the top answer was that respondents feared the community would not be vibrant (35%). Secondly, respondents didn’t understand the costs associated with the initiative, often thinking that a long term community would be too expensive. Thirdly, respondents didn’t understand the operational impact of running an online community.
Respondents of this study were asked to define what an “online branded community” would be. The answers revealed that “the market is confused about what is, and what is not a branded community.” While there is some confusion about what exactly a branded community is among respondents, their definition did not include loose connections and conversations that occur in the larger social sphere. 49% of respondents did agree that a branded community needs to have a central gathering place.
The market research online community industry is still very young, but through this research and reports like that of DiMauro and Fish show that they are rapidly coming to maturity with companies and organizations realizing the strategic advantage that communities offer. It is important to show a clear list of what companies can expect with a community as well as what it cannot. The most important obstacle for getting a community is executive support. This buy-in takes time, and should be handled by carefully researching the business case for a community.
If you have any questions or concerns about community software and all that is entailed, please feel free to contact us.
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