Marketing & Online Communities: Final Agenda Set

We are just over a week away from the Marketing & Online Communities conference, which will be held November 5th at the Tribeca Grand in New York City. The event promises to be an informative and interactive discussion of the intersection of marketing and online communities. We still have a few seats left, so if you would like to participate in the event, please register here: http://moc08.eventbrite.com .

Our intention with holding the Marketing & Online Communities conference is to explore of the intersection of marketing and online communities. Marketing agencies and teams are playing a key role in the development of online communities, and more generally, in the use of social media. But, there are several key issues, including:

  • Many marketing teams are still focused on quarterly-driven results and think in a campaign mentality, versus building long term relationships.
  • Many community hosts are struggling with appropriate forms of marketing, and in developing appropriate engagement programs.
  • Community members don’t want to feel manipulated or interrupted in their community experiences, and they want to have conversations, as opposed to being “talked at” by brands.

We chose our topic and speaker lineup to highlight healthy attitudes and best practices in building relationships with online communities.

Our session and breakout topics, and session leads will include:

  • Designing for Conversation
    Heather Gold, Subvert.com
  • The Social Web: How Consumers and Brands are Connecting Online
    Elisa Camahort Page – BlogHer
    Kendra Bracken – Fleishman-Hillard
  • Secrets of Successful Community Campaigns
    Heather Lutrell – 3jane / indieclick
    Belinda Lang – American Express
  • Community Generated Media: Giving Customers a Voice and Companies Insight
    David Rubinstein – ExpoTV
    Michael Liefer – Swirl
  • The Role of PR: “Public Relationships “
    Brad B McCormick – Porter Novelli
  • Moderating Your Brand
    Mike Passcucci – Mzinga
  • Brand Monitoring in A Web 2.0 World
    Steve Broback – Parnassus Group
  • Integrating Customer Communities in to the Marketing Mix
    Peter Friedman, Moderator – LiveWorld

Again, if you would like to participate in the event, please register here: http://moc08.eventbrite.com .

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

The tag for the event is #moc2008

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 Unconference: Help make it the largest!

We have had an unbelievable response to the upcoming Online Community Unconference to be held June 18th. Registration numbers are just shy of 200 people, and we expect to hit 250. We think this will be the biggest event, this year, focused on online communities.

We have a wide range of organizations, industries and personalities coming, including: Adobe, Autodesk, BabyCenter, CafePress, Cisco, Civic Ventures, Comcast, Digg, eBay Research Labs, EdgiLabs, Flickr, Forrester Research, Google, Intuit, Jive Software, Link TV, LinkedIn, NetApp, Omidyar Network, O’Reilly Media, Six Apart, Social Edge, Sony Online Entertainment, SRI International, Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation, Sun, VMWare and YouTube.

To see the full list of folks coming, check out the registration page:
http://ocu2008.eventbrite.com

If you are charged with managing online communities or community strategy for your organization, this will be a fantastic event for you. The agenda is participant driven, the networking is fantastic, and the content will be fantastic.

Current Research: Online Community Marketing, Engagement and Growth

The Online Community Research Network is kicking off our next research project to study online community marketing, member engagement and growth strategies.

The goal of the study is to get direct feedback from community managers and strategists about:

  • most effective ways to market their communities
  • the definition of community member engagement
  • best practices for fostering member engagement
  • fostering community health and and driving growth

We have found that the best source of information about community best practice and strategy comes from the collective experience of real-world practitioners.

If you would like to participate in the study, please send me an email (bjohnston@forumone.com) with your contact info, your organization, and a link to, or description of the communities you manage or guide.

Busy March and April: events I am hosting / attending

Lot’s of good online community events coming up, including:

Online Community Roundtable: Seattle
We will be on campus at Microsoft the evening of 3/12. Want to attend? Send me an email.

Mobile Communities Unconference: 3/20 in Palo Alto
Forum One Network’s next Unconference focuses on the possibilities (and challenges) of online community and social media experienced via wireless handsets.

What’s Next: Boomer Summit: 3/26 in DC
Our good friend Mary Furlong is hosting the Boomer Summit. I’m leading panels on “What’s Next in Technology” and Social Networking.

Online Community Business Summit: 4/14-15 in Santa Fe
Forum One Network’s gathering of industry leaders to discuss the business of online community. Who’s coming? Linden Lab, Apple, Cisco, VMWare, Sony and Microsoft to name a few. Want an inviation? Send me an email.

May and June? Even busier 🙂 More good stuff to highlight and announce soon.

Forum One – Online Community Events for 2008

Online Communiteers – Breaking news: we have finalized our event series for 2008. I wanted to give the OC Report readers a sneak peek, as well as to let you know that we have opened registration and have a special “super early bird” rate for our OCU East and Mobile Communities Unconferences.

Our events series for 2008 includes:

Online Community Unconference East 2008
(Registration Open Now!)
http://www.forumone.com/ocue2008
February 21, 2008 in New York
The Online Community Unconference East is the east coast of location of our Unconference series. The event is an Open Space gathering of online community practitioners – managers, developers, business people, tool providers, investors – to discuss experience and strategies in the development and growth of online communities.

Mobile Communities Unconference (Registration Open Now!)
http://www.forumone.com/mcu2008
March 20, 2008 in Palo Alto
The Mobile Communities Unconference focuses on social experiences on the brings together strategists, community hosts, device manufacturers, service providers, and content developers to discuss the emerging opportunities and challenges that mobile communities present.

Online Community Business Forum 2008

http://www.forumone.com/ocfb2008
April 14 – 15, 2008 in Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Online Community Business Forum is an invitation-based event for online executives to gather and discuss the intersection of business strategy and online community, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Online Community Unconference 2008

http://www.forumone.com/ocu2008
June 18, 2008 in Mountain View, CA
The Online Community Unconference is our west coast gathering of online community practitioners – managers, developers, business people, tool providers, investors – to discuss experience and strategies in the development and growth of online communities.

Online Community Summit 2008
http://www.forumone.com/ocs2008
October 9 – 10, 2008 in Sonoma, CA
The Online Community Summit, in it’s 8th year, is the exclusive gathering for thought leaders in online collaboration gather to discuss best ideas for the future, in Sonoma, California.

Marketing & Online Communities 2008
November 3-4, NYC (dates and details to be confirmed in January 08)
The Marketing & Online Communities conference will explore current practice and innovative case studies that focus on the intersection of marketing and online communities.

If you have any questions about any of the events, or are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please let me know.

Marketing & Online Communities: Just added John Bell of Ogilvy!

I’m pleased to announce that we have just confirmed John Bell of Ogilvy as a session lead at the Marketing & Online Communities conference.

Our session lead list includes:

• John Bell – Ogilvy
• Andy Chambers – Digit
• David Dunne – Edelman
• Anne Marie Edwards – Yahoo!
• Mary Furlong – Mary Furlong & Associates
• Marcien Jenckes – AOL
• Michael Leifer – guerilla PR, Inc.
• Tim Manners – THE HUB Magazine / Cool News of the Day
• Thor Muller – Satisfaction
• Bree Nguyen – Warner Bros Records
• Charlie Tarzian – CoActive Marketing Group
• Richard Weil – Cartoon Network
• Jeremy Welt – Warner Bros Records

This is a really great list of folks representing a range of perspectives from marketing, to media, to community.

We still have a very few tickets left for the conference, which is next Thursday, 11/8, in NYC. Please email me if you are interested.

Marketing & Online Communities: Factors affecting change in consumer and marketer attitudes

It’s just a little over a week away from the Marketing & Online Community conference. The conference agenda is almost set, and we have a great list of speakers and topics. I’m pulling together my thoughts for opening remarks, and I thought I would share some thoughts about how marketing techniques and consumer and marketer attitudes are changing.

The marketing equation to date has been something like this:
Corporate marketer engages agency with a specific goal in mind, like sell more widgets the next 2 quarters. Agency comes up with campaign that pounds consumers via available media with call to action to buy more widgets. Single digit “conversion” is deemed successful. Wash, rinse, repeat.

So how are the players in the above equation changing?

Consumers / Community Members
More and more people are flocking to social networking and community sites every day. More social media is being created and consumed every day, as traditional media consumption falls. Consumers have never been so empowered, and have also never been so overwhelmed with options and content. The connected consumer generally trusts her peers more than a c-level exec or slick campaign.

Brands / Companies
Companies are starting to realize that they can’t control the message or the medium. The best are acting as good hosts of their communities, and creating clean, well lit places to host the conversations and experiences their customers want to have. They are also extending their efforts to reach customers and prospects at the other places they work and play online, and to engage them in appropriate and interesting ways. These efforts go well beyond the traditional marketing and PR efforts of the past, with the end goal of creating unmediated relationships with their customers.

Agencies
Agencies have traditionally been paid to achieve campaign-driven results quarter over quarter. Most are struggling to evolve their approach, and to help client companies build meaningful and direct relationships with their customers. Authenticity (becoming part of the community) and transparent intentions (being clear about what you want / are trying to do) are key elements in this evolution.

We have a great group of folks coming to discuss these issues, and much more. We do have a handful of tickets left to the conference, including 2 discounted tickets. If you would like more information, please send me an email.

New session leads for the Marketing & Online Communities conference

We are lining up the final speaker slots for the Marketing & Online Community conference.

We’ve added three folks this week that I am particularly excited about (ok, I’m also excited by the whole lineup).


David Dunne – Edelman

I’ve been a fan of Edelman since a former Autodesk colleague introduced me to their Trust Barometer a couple of years ago. I’m glad to have their perspective a part of the conference.

Thor Muller – Satisfaction
Satisfaction intends to turn customer support, and by extension, brand ownership on it’s ear. If you aren’t familiar with the site, check it out. It turns out our CEO Chris blogged about them several weeks ago.

Richard Weil – Cartoon Network
Richard is working on a very interesting virtual world project. I’m not sure how much I am free to say at this point… so we will just leave it as that.

It is interesting to watch traditional marketing and advertising agencies confront the power of the connected consumer. I’m very excited to get to New York and to explore this topic with the brands, agencies and communities that are coming.

Marketing & Online Communities: An update on speakers and topics (and a kick ass reception)

Cross-posted from the OC Report: Following closely on the heels of the Online Community Summit, The Marketing & Online Communities conference is less than a month away.

The Marketing & Online Communities conference is intended to be an in-depth discussion on the current issues and opportunities in marketing to communities. Marketers and brand managers seem to be struggling with effective and appropriate techniques when marketing to the connected consumer. For instance, Edelman, the renowned PR firm that publishes it’s annual Trust Barometer, has had a couple of recent campaigns for Wal-Mart that clearly violate consumer trust. Conversely, online communities seem to be very reluctant to experiment with new and appropriate marketing techniques, and seem to fall back on crude tools like banner ads. Personally, I’m stunned every day at the crass and off-target ads I’m served in Facebook. We can all collectively do better.

In short: the point of the conference is to bring marketing agencies, brand managers and community hosts to the table to talk about how to market more effectively and respectfully.

Our topic list includes:

• Marketing to Communities – The Brand “Us”
• Anatomy of an Integrated Campaign
• Creating Successful Campaigns With Established Communities
• Hosting the premier community for your Brand
• Using Social Media in Your Campaigns
• Measuring The Success of Your Community Campaign
• Children & Tween Communities: Engaging the Future
• Boomer Networks
• The Future of Community-based Marketing

Our session lead list includes:

• Dave Bottoms – Yahoo!
• Betsy Burroughs – Future Catalyst
• Andy Chambers – Digit
• Mary Furlong – Mary Furlong & Associates
• Marcien Jenckes – AOL
• Michael Leifer – guerilla PR, Inc.
• Tim Manners – THE HUB Magazine / Cool News of the Day
• Bree Nguyen – Warner Bros Records
• Jeremy Welt – Warner Bros Records

A partial list of the organizations attending includes:

• AOL
• APC
• David X. Manners Company
• Digit London
• Eastman Kodak
• Fidelity Investments
• Guardian Investment Management
• guerilla PR, Inc.
• Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
• Lightworks New Media, Inc.
• LiveWorld
• Marketmaker Interactive
• Microsoft
• Omidyar Network
• Strategic Marketing
• The Luxury Institute
• United Nations
• WebEx
• Yahoo

Last but not least, we have added a reception following the event in the ultra hip Sanctum lounge. This is the prefect place for both sides of the community and marketing debate to sip a cocktail, relax, and network after what promises to be a full day of heated discussion.

If you would like to request an invitation to the event, please fill out this short form.

A few speaking and sponsorship opportunities are still available. Please let me know if you would like to discuss. bjohnston@forumone.com.