As an executive owner of our digital products including enterprise Communities, I get the chance to celebrate our clients’ community anniversaries. Enterprise Communities enable companies to create a truly highly-engaging, branded, web-based community, and recruit richly profiled members to uncover a deeper level of consumer insights. In plain words, enterprise Communities enable companies to uncover both quantitative and qualitative insights and spot emerging trends over time. This particular client, a food manufacturer, has been running their branded community for five years. No small feat! This celebration seemed like the perfect time to reflect on the past few years and summarize the lessons learned from this company’s enterprise Community journey. To bullet point a robust and exciting topic, I asked for the three pieces of advice this client’s team could share with companies that are considering starting a community of their own. Here are their answers:
1. Be prepared for surprises
Surprises can sometimes carry a negative association but they can also unleash new opportunities. This team’s biggest surprise over the last five years has been how open and sometimes brutally honest members of their enterprise Community can be. Candid and open responses can lead to insights, which otherwise would have been unattainable.
The distinct groups of participation by level of engagement have also been a surprise to this team. Their community members fell into three distinct groups: 1. super active (about 25%); 2. somewhat active (about 50%) and 3. the wild card members - the members who sometimes show up and sometimes don’t (another 25%). This falls in line with the other communities we see across multiple verticals and it is worth noting that each group brings valuable data and insight. We often say recruiting community members is like inviting guests to a pool party you host – everyone is valued but they all experience it differently; from the super enthusiastic guest who brings their swim trunks, goggles and swim fins to the more conservative one, who may be perfectly happy to quietly sip her Margarita by the pool.
The last surprise for this client came from internal parties, rather than the community itself. This team was shocked to see how much and how often internal stakeholders - often from other departments - wanted to utilize the community. Clearly a positive outcome for providing value laterally across the organization and establishing influence internally.
2. Spend more time looking at Big Data within the community
Companies who manage their own enterprise Communities often get caught in getting projects done fast because speed is one of the most obvious benefits of communities. What is easy to miss, however, is that often there are more than 100 attributes on a large number of community members (5,000 community members in this client’s case!) and that such a massive amount of data that can be analyzed to uncover deeper trends that could otherwise be missed. As a food manufacturer, this client realized they should be spending more time looking at community members that shop at certain retailers and look for micro trends that they now refer to as 'untapped gold.'
3. Bravely lead the way with the shift away from surveys to more chats
More and more consumer insights and market research professionals are getting asked “why?” and surveys even when used within a community can’t get at that as well. Initially, collecting insights from chats can be a challenge for a new branded Community client because it takes more time and is a different set of skills. But the insights a company typically gets from the chats and bulletin boards is way beyond expectation. For example, this client discovered that the picture on one of their product labels could be offensive during a concept test. That was a huge catch for the insights team and the internal partner was thrilled they avoided a crisis.
Communities continue to grow in size, usage and are quickly expanding their capabilities. Communities offer a cost effective way to manage projects, audiences and centralize insights and data into one place for easy analysis and access. It’s personally gratifying for me to see and hear how companies like my client are exploring new ways to use their community and think differently about how to engage with their key audiences to gain deeper insights.