Webinar – Online Communities: Surviving & Thriving in the Economic Downturn

Online Communities: Thriving in the Economic Downturn Webinar
A FREE webinar sponsored by Forum One Networks
May 7, 2009 @ 11:00 am PDT
Register here: http://thrivesurvive-rpm.eventbrite.com

The economy is in a state of flux, but interest in and use of online communities and social media has never been higher. Hear from a panel of experienced community executives about how they are guiding their community-based businesses through the economic challenges, and hear about the opportunities they see on the horizon.

I’ll be leading an incredible panel that includes Thor Muller of Satisfaction, Chris Kenton of SocialRep and Scott Wilder of Intuit for an in-depth discussion around social media and online community strategies and tactics for surviving and thriving in the economic downturn. Session highlights will include:

– Buffalo culture as a new metaphor for your online business
– How stakeholder attitudes are changing in light of economic pressures
– Why solid community engagement strategies have never been more important (or valuable)
– Rethinking “ROI”
– Advice on how to navigate the downturn
– Budget & staffing implications during the downturn

Please note: Attendance is limited to 200 people. Register early to reserve your spot!

Thor Muller – CEO & Co-founder, Satisfaction
Thor Muller is CEO & Co-founder of Satisfaction, a startup delivering “people-powered customer service for absolutely everything.”

He is also the co-founder and former Managing Director of Rubyred Labs, a San Francisco-based web apps firm. Since its founding in 2005, Rubyred has developed social software for a range of startups and leading portals.

Prior to Rubyred, Thor was a first generation Web entrepreneur, creating Web success stories for companies such as Yahoo, Dell, Bank of America, Intel, Virgin Records, Fujitsu, Discovery Channel, and Sony. In 1995, he started and ran one of the early Web development boutiques, Prophet Communications, later acquired by Frog Design where he served as VP Digital Media. He subsequently founded Trapezo, a venture-funded company that made Web software for syndicating content, acquired by Perfect Commerce in 2002.

Christopher Kenton – CEO & Founder, SocialRep
Christopher Kenton is founder and CEO of the enterprise social media SaaS startup SocialRep, and cofounder and consulting partner at MotiveLab a social media marketing agency. Chris was formerly Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at the Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) Council, and its corporate parent, the international PR firm GlobalFluency, where he managed global business development, client consulting services and program development for business communities including the CMO Council, the Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum and the Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME).

With an extensive background in strategic marketing and software development, Chris specializes in market development, competitive positioning, marketing effectiveness and measurement, with a special emphasis on marketing technology and social media.


Scott K. Wilder, Group Manager, Intuit

Scott K. Wilder is currently the Group Manager of Intuit’s QuickBooks Online Community and User-Collaboration Web site. Previously, he served as Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at KBtoys.com and eToys. He also has held numerous senior management positions at America Online, Apple Computer, Borders.com, and American Express. While working at America Online, Scott helped create the first Web-based online advertisement and commercial Web site. Wilder has a Master degrees from The Johns Hopkins University, The New York University Leonard Stern School of Business and Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Program.

Online Community Roundtable: Jan 8 in SF

oc roundtableThe next Online Community Roundtable will be held Thursday, January 8 at SolutionSet in San Francisco.

The Roundtable is intended for seasoned community managers and strategists. We have room for 20 folks, and seats are going fast. The event is free.

To RSVP for the Roundtable, please go here:
http://moourl.com/sf_ocr_jan09
About the Roundtables…
The Roundtables have been a regular, but intentionally “under the radar” gathering I’ve organized since July of 2005. The purpose of the Roundtable is to provide an open and safe environment for community practitioners to share experiences and best practices. It’s also an excellent excuse meet other interesting folks practicing in the online community and social media space.

Ground Rules:

* No sponsorships. Host organization provides space, food and beverages
* No pitches. Presentations should be about sharing experiences, having a discussion about a problem or issue you are facing, or reviewing a project or site you are working on.
* The guest list is up to Bill
* Bill sets final agenda based on topic appropriateness and time available
* “Soft” NDA: Blogging / Tweeting etc sessions is ok, unless presenter asks you not to.

Format for the 1/8 meeting:
5:00 – 6:00 Networking hour.
Drinks and food will be available.

6:00 – 7:30 Presentations.
After the networking hour, we’ll share thoughts on community. We request that you bring a 1-2 slide deck to talk to. Topics can range from:

* A report back from a conference
* A new community that you have recently launched
* A feature that you are developing, or are interested in discussing
* Challenges that you are facing in developing, growing or managing your community
* Or any other topic that you feel would be appropriate and enlightening to this audience.

Please email me if you have any questions: bjohnston@forumone.com

Online Communities: Establishing an Online Community’s Culture

This is cross-posted from the Online Community Report blog.

Online Communities: Surviving and Thriving in a Downturn (Part 1)

Note: this is cross posted from the Online Community Report

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of very grim economic news of late. The purpose of this post isn’t to give an overview of the current situation, but to highlight possible implications of a slower economy on business, and by extension on online community budgets. More importantly, I want to start a discussion about Community Managers can help their community’s survive and thrive during the downturn.

We have seen this cycle before, and relatively recently. When the web 1.0 bubble burst, many “community”-based startups ceased to exist, and spending on online community development in the enterprise all but dried up. From personal experience, most of the community initiatives at Autodesk were suspended in the closing months of 2001, and we shifted focus to our discussion groups and some customer-generated content activities.

What was different with Community 2.0?
By late 2004 and early 2005, key changes in in the marketplace, in organizations attitudes and in customer (user / people online / etc) behavior led to an explosive growth of social media, use of social networking and increased online community building activities by many organizations.

Key factors were (IMHO, I won’t list all):
• Cost of platforms dramatically decreased, and in some cases fell to zero
• Consumer and workplace broadband reached ~100% penetration
• Consumers accepted less formal content, trust in “people like me” exceeded authorities
• A certain segment of the group formerly known as “the audience” decided they wanted to actively create, participate and connect
• Many companies started to accept and practice the principles outlined in the Cluetrain Manifesto, and in the many key books, blogs and conference that followed, evangelizing the metaphor of conversation

Things Were Going So Well, What Happened?
Earlier this year, we started to hear significant rumblings from wall street that things were not ok, particularly with the credit markets. Over the last two weeks, the markets have been in turmoil. Many organizations are seeing the dark shadow of a recession. Some argue we are already there. One thing is clear: most organizations have shifted to a more conservative outlook for 2009.

As organizations take a more sober look at the last quarter of 2008 and make projections for 2009, there are some likely implications for online community programs:
• Budgets will likely shrink
• Headcount will likely be frozen
• Positions may be consolidated (merging of roles)
• Layoffs may happen
• It will be harder to upgrade / make improvements to infrastructure
• Pressure will increase quickly and dramatically for some articulation of value
• Programs may be cut back
• In extreme cases, some community programs may be abandoned

Thriving in the Downturn
I want to be very clear here: I don’t think the global economic circumstances mean gloom and despair for the entire online community sector. The circumstances for Community 2.0 that I outlined above still generally hold true, and I still believe most organizations can create real value by engaging in online community activity. Signs that interest in online community is still high are all around. For instance, demand for qualified community managers and strategists is at an all time high (even though we are starting to see the first hints of staff reduction).

However, I do think that Community Managers have some work to do in order to navigate some of the potential challenges I outlined above. I’ve outlined the following tactics that can help (and I’d love to here your suggestions via the comments).

• Focus on Defining / and Reporting Value
In order for your community strategy to be sustainable, you need to be able to articulate value back to the organization. This value has to be articulated, at least in part, in the cultural language of your organization. In some organizations, it’s all about impact to customer loyalty, it some organizations, this value is growing an audience (member registrations). You will likely wind up with a report that is a mosaic of quantitative and qualitative sources. We’ve studied this issue in the Online Community Research Network, and you can see a report excerpt here:

Online Community ROI and Revenue Techniques

• Reach Out to Other Departments (CSR / Marketing / Support)
Online Communities offer value to almost every department in the organization, from HR (recruiting), to Support (call avoidance), to Marketing (awareness / reach), to the Product team (feedback, customer led innovation). Now is the time to reach out to other teams and create cross-organizations ties, and involve other teams in community building and engagement activities.

• Show the Cost of Not Participating
One way to show value back to management is to paint a picture of not having a community or community engagement strategy, and the associated costs and losses. These hypothetical costs can range from increased awareness of competitors to decreased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

• Be Honest About Your Strategy
Take a look at the community touchpoints and programs you are engaging in. Are there a few that have little or no participation? Are there features that score consistently low on your community research? Now is a good time to look at shedding these features and programs that are not creating value for your community. This is also an opportunity to involve the community in continuing to shape the experience and ongoing direction. Lastly, are there features or programs that you are struggling to maintain, that would be better served out in the community ecosystem? For instance, a particularly strong, independent Facebook group for your brand that you have been struggling with, or a user group that has a competitive feature on their site? Let it go.

• Stick Together
The worst feeling in trying times is feeling alone and isolated. If you and / or your team don’t have peers at other companies to talk to and share strategies and tactics with, start making those connections now. There are lots of meetups (like my Online Community Roundtable), conferences and organizations (like the social media club and the online community research network) to help support you.

What do you think?
I would love to hear what you think, either via comments or email. Are you seeing changing attitudes towards your online community initiatives? Have you been affected by the downturn? Do you have advice or suggestions to help other navigate these issues?

Online Community Events for Fall & Winter 08

We are just beginning the mad rush of the fall and winter conference season, and I wanted to highlight a few events that I am participating in.

Online Community Roundtable: October 2 – San Jose, CA
The Online Community Roundtable series is a free netowrking event that I have been hosting since 2005. The Roundtables are designed to allow community managers and strategists to come together in person to network, share experiences and get feedback in a safe and respectful environment. The next Roundtable will be held on the Cisco campus in San Jose on October 2nd. For more information, and to request an invite, please join the Online Community Roundtable group on Facebook.

Online Community Summit: October 9-10 – Sonoma, CA
The Online Community Summit will be held in Sonoma, CA October 9-10. This is Forum One’s premier online community event that brings together senior online community staff from leading commercial and non-profit organizations.

Community Exchange Summit: October 14-15 – San Jose, CA
This is the inaugural year of the Community Exchange Summit, and I will be keynoting the event.

Marketing & Online Communities: November 5, New York City
The Marketing & Online Communities conference will explore the intersection of marketing and online communities, including how communities and social media are changing traditional marketing practices, and how marketing teams are evolving to meet new challenges and communicate more effectively and appropriately.

And announcing…

The Green Enterprise Unconference: December 3, Mountain View, CA
Forum One Communications (parent to Forum One Networks) has a rich history of focusing on initiatives that have positive social impact. We decided to take our growing expertise with the Unconference format and apply to an important and emergent sector: Enterprise Green initiatives. We expect 150-200 people coming together to discuss the opportunities and challenges with going green in the enterprise.

If you have questions about any of these events, please feel free to drop me a line.

Online Community Compensation 2008

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report:

The Online Community Compensation study was initiated in July of 2008 as part of our ongoing research efforts with the Online Community Research Network. The intention of the study was to get a broad look at online community compensation, factors that effect compensation, and the current environment of the community team and community staff roles.

We received approximately 225 responses. Participants represent a healthy swath of the types of organizations participating in online community building activities, including: large software companies, large community destination sites, niche community sites, platform providers, interactive marketing firms and independent consultants.

Key findings from the report:
• The majority of the respondents are: Female (55%) vs. Male (45%),
• The majority (61%) of respondents ranged in age from 31-50 years of age.
• Most of the respondents have more than 5 years of experience, completed a Bachelors Degree, and work 41-50 hours per week.
• The average Salary of the respondents was $81k with a median of $72.5k. There were peaks on both the low ($0-$25k) and high ends (more than $150k), and then also at $60-$65k.
• Women are earning only 91% of what men are earning; women averaged $77k, and the men averaged $85k. The average annual salary for all participants was almost $81k.
• Most participants are satisfied with their jobs with an average satisfaction score of 4.2 and a median score of 4 (on a scale of 1-5).

Gender
This is the first time we have asked a gender question in our research, but this answer, combined with anecdotal data from our events supports a slight tendency towards females being in community roles vs. males.

Age
Most of the particpants skewed towards the 31-40 y/o segment.

Department
The responses indicate Marketing “owning” Community teams, or organizations creating a dedicated team. “No formal structure” and “Throughout the company” were also popular responses. The placement of the community team seems to be very much in flux, with a bias towards the marketing department.

Experience
The respondents generally represented a senior and seasoned body of practitioners. The dip in responses in the 3yr to 5 yr range likely represents the general waning of interest in online community during the 3 years after the Internet bubble, and the relatively recent resurgence in interest and investment.

Salary
The average Salary the research participants was $81k with a median of $72.5k. There were peaks on both the low ($0-$25k) and high ends (more than $150k), and then also at $60-$65k. The salaries reported represent a disparate, but generally healthy, range. Spikes in the “$0 to $25k” can be accounted for by volunteers, part time staff and C-level staff not currently taking compensation in startup environments.

Salary by Gender
Women are earning 91% of what men are earning; women averaged $77k, and the men averaged $85k. The average annual salary for all participants was almost $81k.

Satisfaction
It is encouraging to find that overall satisfaction with Online Community positions is well above average. This indicates the combination of salary, benefits, work environment and subject matter is working for most of the respondents.

Full Report
The full Online Community Compensation report contains a good deal more information on the topic, including:
• Community team size
• Respondent education
• Hours Worked
• Benefits
• Salary by Country (US, UK, Canada)
• Salary by Title
• Salary by Experience
• Salary increases in last 12 months
• Full write in comments from Survey

The report available for free to members of the Online Community Research Network, or available to purchase for non-members here:
Online Community Compensation 2008

Online Community Research Network: Our Research Agenda

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report:

Over the last 3 years we’ve conducted research with over a 1000 organizations actively engaged with online communties, including Fortune 500 companies, cutting edge community-based startups and some of the world’s leading non-profit organizations.

We are currently conducting 6 studies annually, and we typically release the research reports (for a limited time).

Currently available (free) research reports include:
Identity, Reputation & Ranking:
The Identity, Reputation & Ranking research project studied current practice with online identity, member reputation (including reputation systems and programs) and content ranking techniques.
Key findings from the study include:
– Members typically don’t fill out non-required profile fields;
– Slightly less than 1/3 of the respondents (32%) have, or plan on making member’s profiles portable in the next 6 months;
– Slightly less than 1/3 of the respondents (32%) have, or plan on implementing a universal ID solution in the next 6 months;
– The majority of respondents have, or are developing a reputation system for their communities.
Download this report (free).

Online Community Revenue and ROI Techniques:
The Online Community Revenue and ROI Techniques research project studied revenue streams of online communities as well as monetary and non-monetary measurements of value.
Key findings from the study include:
– Respondents generally valued non-fiduciary dimensions of value, like loyalty, over direct revenue.
– The most effective revenue generating techniques were advertising and charging for community subscription.
– A member-first attitude is needed when considering the addition of fee-based or revenue-generating services. The best way to find out what your members do or don’t want? Ask them.
Download this report (free).

Marketing & Online Communities:
The Marketing & Online Communities research project was intended to study the intersection of current marketing practices and online community building.
Key takeaways from the study include:
– A list of community marketing tactics that community hosts engage in;
– Feedback on the most effective marketing tactics;
– Host policies that marketers must adhere to;
Download this report (free).

Research Reports Available to OCRN Members:
Online Community: Marketing, Growth and Engagement Report / July 2008 (also available for purchase)
Online Community ROI: Models and Reports / February 2008
Online Community ROI Research Report / April 2007
Online Community Metrics: February, 2007
Online Community Metrics: Best Practices Survey / March 2006
Blogs, Wikis and Workspaces: June 2006

Our Research Calendar for this quarter includes:

Online Community Compensation (team structure, titles and compensation packages from over 250 community professionals): to be published August 2008
Community Vendor Satisfaction (Platform & Services): to be published September 2008

In addition to all the research reports, OCRN members get an active say in steering the research agenda, and also help shape the research instruments.

To find out more about the OCRN, please feel free to ping me.

Online Community Engagement: Recent Research

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report

Online Community Compensation: Your Input Needed

At the Online Community Unconference a couple of weeks ago, it became clear to me that we are at an inflection point with the “industry” of Online Community. On of the key issues community professionals face is that we (as an industry) are suffering from a lack of solid benchmarks, including compensation of online community professionals. The key purpose of the Online Community Research Network is to work in a collaborative way to research current practice and help establish these benchmarks.

We have put together a short survey about online community professionals compensation, team structure, and current job satisfaction.

The survey can be found here:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=dmkh9tZ6vZHyheMFqv2mcg_3d_3d

If you are charged with community management, strategy or design at your organization, I would encourage you to respond to the survey. We are seeking input from all types of organizations, and all levels of seniority.

If you decide to participate, there are few things to note:
• All participants will receive a copy of the final (aggregate) report.
• All data will be processed and compiled in aggregate. Data will not be reviewed or presented in a personally (or company) identifiable way.
• All participants are entered in to a drawing for 1 of 10 $25 Starbucks coffee cards.

If you have any questions about the study, please feel free to contact me. We hope to close the survey by July 17th.

Next Community Roundtable: 6/10 @ Cyworld in SF

Are you a community manager or are you in charge of online community at your organization? Are you in the Bay Area?

If so, you might find the Online Community Roundtable of interest. This is a small netowrking group / event that meets regularly to discuss issues, opportunities and trends with online communities, and represents leading organizations (large and small).

Our next meeting is Tuesday, June 10 at Cyworld in SF. The session will last from 5:30 to 8:30. Please email me if you are interested.