DMF 2011 | Building and Cultivating Hosted Communities

By Kaitlyn Smeland Dhanaliwala | Feb 4, 2011
More Articles by Kaitlyn


My last session here at Digital Marketing Forum today is Community: Building and Cultivating Hosted Communities. The panel discusses how companies should design, build, and implement online communities for Q&A, troubleshooting, and/or branding purposes.  Our speakers are:

Sean O’Driscoll- Microsoft
Tim Albright- Jive Software
Ajay Tejwani- USAA
Tabrez Syed- Spiceworks

Sean O’Driscoll starts off by highlighting some of the forty or so online communities implemented at Microsoft.  MS has tried to develop separate communities for consumers, developers, and IT professionals.  He points out that the first thing you should do (especially if you’re a small business) is determine if it’s even worth it for you to create a brand new community of your own.  It might make more sense to just do outreach and be a scrappy participant in other existing communities.

Sean also recommends creating a sort of “balance sheet,” listing company benefits of your proposed community on one side and user benefits of the community on the other side; the benefits to the user should always be equal or greater than the benefits to you as a company.  Users will not adopt your community if it doesn’t provide them with true value.

Tim Albright points out that historically, companies were asking why they should implement a community with customers.  Currently, the question is more often how can I?  And furthermore a lot of internal employees are even asking why aren’t we? Be sure to listen carefully to what your community users are asking/talking about- then change the organization of your community.  Another consideration is whether your community will truly bring people together and let them interact better than they have been doing it already.

Ajay Tejwani starts by giving one main piece of advice for creating new communities: keep in mind the passion that your best customers have for your product or services. Design your community based on what those customers want to talk about.   Engage the internal stakeholders who will need to buy into the program from the beginning; make sure everyone understands the benefits of a social community.

Tabrez Syed of Spiceworks gives a few tips for smaller businesses trying to create its own social community.  By monitoring the discussions going on in social media, Tabrez noticed that small business IT professionals were asking questions about things other than product features and there wasn’t a good forum for those kinds of conversations.  That was the purpose/intended culture of the community that Spiceworks eventually created.   Think about the culture you want to foster before you structure the community.  In addition, the community should be built into the daily workflow so that the company is regularly checking in and engaging, fostering the community that it has built.

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