Dude, where have you been?

Howdy all. I thought it was worth a quick update to explain my blog absence. I understand that this is sort of a rite of passage in some cultures šŸ™‚

I’ve been offline for most of the last week because my GrandmotherĀ  Johnston passed away last Monday. I caught the redeye last Tuesday night from SFO to SDF (Louisville to those of you not familiar with KY airports), and then drove an hour south to my home town of Leitchfield, KY. It was a very sad experience, but it was also great to reconnect with friends and family. And, what a family. My Grandma Johnston had a full life, and I mean full… as in she had 14 kids. I’m not kidding. I have 14 aunts and uncles, and a bazillion 1st and 2nd cousins.

While I was home, I was reminded that:

  • I loved my Grandma
  • I appreciate growing up in a very small community
  • Family is the original social network
  • CA real estate is CRAZY
  • I don’t miss people smoking in public places
  • You can’t get good BBQ anywhere but the south
  • It’s easy to take wifi for granted in the Bay Area

More or less in that order. šŸ™‚

Random Updates: OCU2007, Roundtable, InfoWeek, and Marketing & Online Community

Here is a week’s worth of blogging, condensed to one day šŸ™‚

OCU2007

There is literally TONS of great content about the OCU floating around this week:

Online Community Unconference Wiki (session notes / handouts)
Online Community Unconference Photos – flickr
OCU 2007 Show – BlogTV
Still debating the future of communities after all these years – Carol McManus
Some notes from OCU 2007 – Joi Podgorny
Online Community Unconference 2007 – The Social Wave Blog
Thank you Forum One for organizing the Community Unconferenceā€¦ – Community Group Therapy
Capture from the Community UnConference – Jeremiah Owyang
OCU2007 Notes – Josh Ledgard
Online Community Planning: Getting the Party Started – Common Craft
Online Community Unconference: Unconfrences for Communities Q & A – Kaliya Hamlin

Online Community Roundtable
We had a small but knowledgeable group at the OC Roundtable in SF this week. Instead of the usual presentation format, we spent the first 10 minutes brainstorming topics and then spent 90 minutes discussing. It was a really great and informative session. I think we will use this format more, moving forward. Also, I am probably going to start connecting the Roundtable with Susan Tenby’s Meetup… stay tuned.

Online Civility
I was interviewed by Information WeekĀ  aboutĀ  online civility, and the proposed blogger’s code of conduct becuase of this post on the OC Report:
http://www.onlinecommunityreport.com/archives/194-Bloggers-Code-of-Conduct.html

Marketing & Online Communities
I am working on a research project that explores attitudes, best practices andĀ  techniques. The survey will be going out next week.
We are also starting to talk about our Marketing & Online Communities conference to be held in NYC on 11/8. As usual, this event will be small (90 people) and invite only. Should be fun, intensely focused, and informative.

Marc Andeessen is blogging, and it is awseome
http://blog.pmarca.com/

Where does the community team belong in a commercial organization?

Cross-posted from the OC Report:

Where does the community team belong in a commercial organization? This topic came up at our recent Online Community Roundtable and we ran out of time before we could properly discuss, so I thought I would queue up the discussion here.

The responsibility for Online Community in many organizations is distributed among several teams, including:

– Marketing, which typically owns blogging, blogging outreach and any sort of affinity community, and has some skin in the game on strategy.
– Product Support, which typically owns Discussion Groups
– Product Development, which may or may not own Discussion Groups, a Beta site, and potentially a “Labs” community, as well as potentially product development communities and user groups.
– Events, which owns “live” events like conference and any online component
– Web Team, (who’s reporting structure is usually a whole different ball of wax) which typically owns some technology and user experience
– IT, if you are REALLY lucky, your IT department is somehow involved with infrastructure.

The above is just a rough composite sketch based on my personal experience. The reality is that in most orgs, it usually more complicated, especially if you are a company involved in building customer community as part of your business, as opposed to customer community being your primary focus.

So, where does the responsibility for community ultimately reside in an org?

Marketing? At it’s best, marketing is about acting as the advocate for the customer back to the organization. At it’s worst, marketing is actively trying to convince customer and prospets to do something they didn’t know they wanted to do, or don’t want to do. A lot of online community activity is coming out of marketing teams today because of typically large marketing budgets, and marketing teams interested in experimenting with new technologies and trends like social networking and blogging. Still, until most marketing teams are REALLY ready to put their own agenda aside and listen to and act on feedback from their audiences, community engagement will be fairly superficial and short term.

Support? Support communities, and in particular those based in Discussion Groups have done the best job of fostering a real sense of community for most companies. Most companies have accepted the fact that the cost of funding Discussion Groups are offset by call avoidance and increased customer satisfaction. Becuase of this, there is generally a spirit of peer cooperation and a genuine interest in helping customers, as opposed to forwarding an agenda. Could the Support organizations role evolve in to an umbrella role of stewardship for all Online Community activity? Perhaps, but I don’t think this would happen in most companies for political reasons, and in particular, Marketing’s “Divine Right” ownership of customer touch-points.

Sales? Probably not. See the “agenda” issue with Marketing.

Product? Maybe, but I see most product teams as participants in a community, and in particular the community ecosystem around their product or service.

IT? Yeah, right.

It really surprises me that there isn’t a more formal approach emerging, and in particular a role on the excutive team like “Community Czar” or “Chief Community Officer”. Maybe this is what the role of CMO wants to evolve in to?

What do you think?

Great stuff from the latest OC Report Newsletter

You aren’t subscribed? Shame on you! Go here:
http://www.onlinecommunityreport.com/

OK, here’s the good stuff.

John Hagel’s POV on Community 2.0
In this eloquent and poignant post, John builds upon his keynote at c2.o to offer one of the most relevant perspectives on the current state of online communities, and the “Bottom Line Opportunity”.

OC Expert Interview: Lee LeFever, Common Craft
Great insight from Lee, especially around the topic of community management.

Community 2.0 Conference Coverage
The Community 2.0 conference, March 12-14 in Las Vegas, was a great success. The conference had over 200 attendees, and there were several interesting presentations and panel discussions. As usual, the conversations in the halls between sessions were often as interesting as the sessions themselves.
Community 2.0: A frantic update, John Hagel’s keynote & more
– OC Report
Online Community Lessons from SXSW and Community 2.0 – Common Craft
JOHN HAGEL’s KEYNOTE at Community 2.0 Conference – Patty Seybold
Community 2.0: Links, and more thoughts – OC Report
c2.0 Blog Coverage – Community 2.0

Mozilla transforming into a social network
Project Coop: Building the Social Network into the browser

Compete Introduces Attention Statistics
Compete attempts to go beyond visits and page views by introducing the concepts of “Attention” and “Velocity”

More Joost-iness { Update: Invitations GONE}

I have 4 more Joost invites. Email me if you would like one: billdozer@gmail.com

Invitations are gone. Thanks!

Short update: UX is better, still not a lot of content, a BANDWIDTH HOG. Seriously, if you have multiple machines and apps depending on your Internet connection, you are screwed.

I’m paying for 8mbps down from Comcast, and Joost is choppy / sloppy most of the time. Still, it’s fun to play with.

Strategy Anxiety

I’ve heard a lot of discussion around creating formal online community strategies in the last 6 months. I’ve also heard of (and experienced) community efforts that are stalled or even abandoned because of lack of a formal, codified strategy. Personally, I think this is just silly. Think about it: What if you had to come up with a formal communication strategy, put it into powerpoint, and shop it around to all the VPs before answering the phone the next time it rings? Whether you host one or not, your organization has a community that is networking, forming opinions about you, and growing stronger every day.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to encourage everyone to pursue creating online communities with reckless abandon here. What I am saying is that there are factors in play that make it easier, more beneficial and more crucial for you to engage in community building activities for your organization, if you haven’t already.

As I mentioned in a previous post:
1. It’s cheaper to engage in community-building activities. We’ve gone from 7 figure portals to free independent communities to 5 figure deployments for customer, large-scale sites.
2. It’s faster to deploy. Days and weeks, not months or a year.
3. Community already exists. The fact is, your org or brand already has a community. If your customers aren’t talking about your products or services online, you might be in trouble

4. Passionate customers have an appetite for engagement online (and to varying degrees, the flavors of less passionate customers). Customers have an expectation that your company is available and “present” online.
5. The value is starting to be measurable (but still difficult)

The reality is, for most companies it’s close to impossible to create a buttoned up online community strategy at this point. Some reasons?
– In most companies, there is no ownership of community at the executive level
– Community responsibilities scattered over multiple organizations: support, marketing, online, product management, IT, to name a few.
– The expertise for creating this strategy typically isn’t in house. It needs to be grown, contracted, or hired.
– ROI is difficult to clearly quantify at this point.
– The community at large is not employed by the company, and does not necessarily function in the organization’s best interest. This tends to give execs, and particularly marketing and PR, fits.

What can you do?
Start with quick wins. Create a blog. Participate in other hosted discussion groups or online communities. Go to one of your user group meetings and get to know the attendees. Communities start with small networks and weak ties that grow larger and stronger over time. Even a single person in a large company can make a difference. Don’t use lack of “strategy” as an excuse to not start a basic community engagement effort To my earlier analogy mashup: pick up the phone.

Online Community Roundtable #8

We had another successful Online Community Roundtable event in Mountain View last night. George Jaquette from Intuit was good enough to host. Representatives from several Bay Area companies attended, including Autodesk, Apple, Salesforce.com, Symantec, SAP, Dwell Magazine and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation.

The Online Community Roundtable is an opportunity for managers of the Online Community function at Bay Area companies to come together and informally share best practices, discuss relevant business issues and to network with peers. The format is an hour of socializing followed by 90 minutes of guided discussion around a short topic set. The price of admission is a willingness to participate in the discussion. We ask attendees to present a short case study, or lead a guided discussion around a relevant question or topic. We try to hold the Roundtable every 2 months, and we alternate locations between the South Bay and San Francisco.
The intention of this event is to bring local Community experts together to discuss their experiences, issues and best practices so that the participants as a whole come away with a greater understanding of how to engage, and create value with their respective communities.

If you are in the Bay Area, and interested in being invited to future Roundtables, please send me an email: bjohnston@forumone.com .