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

Online Community Governance: The Project Brief

One of the biggest challenges for those leading the community efforts for large organizations (or really, orgs of most sizes) is ensuring that the hosted community efforts of the organization are appropriate, valuable (both to the org and to the member / customer) and sustainable.

First, a little context. I worked at Autodesk for 6 years as the Online Experience Manager (basically a chief IA). The internal web team was structured as an agency within the company, and each division was a “client”. This approach has pros and cons that I won’t go in to now, but for the purposes of the conversation today, the effect was that we had oversight over most online activities, including any hosted community activity. One of the tools we used to ensure a quality online experience was to have our clients fill out a simple project brief describing their vision for the community.

Specifically, the brief covered:

  • Client Team and Stakeholders
  • A Summary of the initial community vision and purpose / rationale
  • Executive sponsorship
  • Community Manager and extended staff
  • Desired features and content
  • Goals “what does success look like?”
  • Budget
  • Launch date

I’m attaching a heavily modified version of the brief I used, updated with the benefit of a bit of hindsight.

I’d really love feedback on this, and would love to hear if you actually find it of use in your day to day practice.

You can download the brief template here:

oncomm_project_brief_v1

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.

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.

OC Unconference East: What to expect during topic selection

We are just 2 days away from the Online Community Unconference East in NYC. We still have about 5 open seats for those or you in the NYC area. You can register at: http://www.ocue.eventbrite.com

There is a really diverse mix of organizations coming, including: BlogHer Inc., Mediabistro, CMP, HP, Gartner, Autodesk, AOL, Texas Instruments, Microsoft, Consumers Union, Zagat, TV Guide, allfacebook.com, Business Week, and Cyworld.

So, how does this work?
The premise of our Unconference series is that the best source of information on the topic of online communities is the community of folks building and managing online communities. The Unconference format provides a venue for folks to lead discussions about topics they are most passionate and knowledgeable about. At the end of the day, attendees walk away with new ideas, perspectives, and a long list of new professional connections.

One of the most amazing parts of the day at our Unconferences is the topic selection process. We are fortunate to have Kaliya Hamlin guiding us through the process again in New York.

The topic selection process starts the Unconference, when any attendee who wishes can come forward, announce a topic, and claim one of the 45-50 open slots on the grid.

Within 35-40 minutes the grid fills up with topics and the first session kicks off. It’s really inspiring to hear all of the topics that are suggested, and to see so many great ideas come together on the grid.

If you would like to see an example of the great content that comes out of an Unconference, please check out the Online Community Unconference 07 wiki. I would encourage you to spend some time looking through the session notes as there is a lot of great content.

Again – we have about 5 seats still available for the Unconference in NYC this Thursday, 2/21. If you would like a seat, register here.