Online Community Summit 2008 – A Report Back

Cross posted from the Online Community Report.

The seventh annual Online Community Summit was held October 9-10 in Sonoma, CA, at Ramekins culinary school. The beautiful Sonoma setting was the perfect backdrop for two days of in depth discussion about engaging and growing online communities.

Participants were senior practitioners and from a diverse set of industries. Companies represented included: AARP, BusinessWeek, Cisco, Consumers Union (Consumer Reports), Current TV, Ebay, iVillage, Logictech, Loopt, Salon.com, Sony, Yahoo and many more.

We cover a lot of ground in the two days of discussion, but to my mind, three key points stick out:

Value & Metrics
The conversation around dimensions of value of online communities seems to be getting more sophisticated. In general, it seems most organizations are comfortable with accepting that there is intrinsic value in community-building activities. Reporting on that value requires a mix of quantitative and qualitative data. The most successful community strategies include clear goals for the organizations community activities that tie back to larger organizational goals. Most teams aren’t getting pressure to “justify the existence” of the online community, but rather, are getting pressure to provide more in depth analysis of the type of value that is being created with the community.

Metaphor: Beyond Destination to Ecosystem
Most community strategies that were discussed involved a more sophisticated engagement plan that went beyond a destination site, and included not only the destination site, but other independent community sites, key bloggers, mass social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Etc.) and even offline groups and events.

Mobile is Coming
If for no other reason than the shear adoption of mobile devices, mobile social networking will play a clear role in the industry soon. Not only are mobile devices deployed at scale, but the sophistication of the devices, and the networks that they run on, are getting faster and more sophisticated. A theme with many in the room at the Summit was about augmented their existing communities with a mobile version.

Blog & Podcast coverage:
We were blessed with several talented bloggers, podcasters and twitterers for this year’s Summit, and as such, I have a lot of follow up content to point you to.

Aaron Strout and Jim Storer of Mzinga did several key interviews. Jim shares his thoughts, and has teh embedded interviews on his blog:
http://www.mzinga.com/en/Community/Blogs/Jim-Storer/Conversations-w-Mzinga-at-OCS08/

Bryan Person of LiveWorld has a nice summary post of the Summit, as well:
http://socialvoice.liveworld.com/blog-entry/Bryan-Persons-Blog/Recapping-2008-Online/1100000180

Brian also conducted a series of interviews:
Chrystie Hill, director of community services for WebJunction.org.
Kathy O’Sullivan, product manager of online community for the education team at Autodesk.
Ron Casalotti, director of user participation at BusinessWeek.
Christine Perey, market-research and business-development consultant for technology providers.

Chrystie Hill’s of Web Junction shares her thoughts:
http://blog.webjunctionworks.org/index.php/2008/10/18/online-community-summit-2008/

Pictures of the Summit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/forumone/tags/ocs08

Twitter Stream:
http://search.twitter.com/search?q=ocs08

Bill Johnston - Founder, Structure3C. Former Head of Community at Dell & Autodesk. Mobile: (415) 233-6914 Twitter: @billjohnston LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/billj In a sentence: Seasoned online community and social media executive and advisor with over 15 years experience developing large scale online communities, social media initiatives and successful online product strategies.

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