The world of social business continues to evolve. No one considers it a fad anymore. Enterprise social networks, online communities and knowledge networks are the new social business centers where people gather, a framework for how we do business today. We talk with our customers online. We collaborate with our partners online. We share with our employees online. They all share with each other online. The results are better products, faster innovations, more rewarding partner relationships – all in real business terms with real returns. Social. Business. Online.
Here at Leader Networks, we have evolved too. After almost eight years with the same look and feel, I am the proud owner of a revised website with new features and capabilities along with a beautiful new design. It’s about time. We and the online community space have been through major changes. In the early days, we focused on helping companies envision and launch their B2B online communities. We set the strategy, developed best practices, trained online community moderators (because there were none with experience) and held the hands of many an anxious executive as we pioneered these experimental, innovative communities.
Today, great online communities are producing substantial business returns and delighted members. Some generate ROI by offering services to prospects or customers at lower cost. Other firms up the ante, and we see them achieve the greatest returns when social business tools are used to drive innovation. Online communities offer treasure troves of insights, market research and product ideas – but only if the organization knows how to use this information. We’ve seen both strategies succeed. Which one is working at your firm?
Building and sustaining a superior online community is a marathon — not a sprint. Without continuous attention, an online community can become a ghost-town, with only an occasional spam post blowing through like a tumbleweed. The Web is littered with empty communities, and Gartner predicts 70% of these sites will fail by 2014 after generating little or no return for their owners, who include some of the world’s largest companies. We’ve seen them too – have you?
As part of our own social business evolution, we have expanded our capabilities. We still work with lots of companies to launch their online communities and social business initiatives, and we now have added capacity to assist organizations who want to get the most out of their investments in existing communities. To help all communities be great or greater we’ve updated our service offerings. We have developed an Online Community Health Check diagnostic that identifies opportunities and offers solutions across a set of online community operational needs (e.g. more engagement, greater feedback, increased reach, unlock innovation, and develop measurable business metrics).
These deep diagnostics and business alignment efforts are necessary because online communities are no longer simple marketing experiments. We have rethought our offerings to better match each stage of the online community life cycle:
Strategy Development: Are you creating the right strategy?
Market Validation/Community Health Check: Are you building something useful and desirable for members?
Business Alignment: Are your strategic and tactical plans able to support business needs?
Operational Impact: Can you deliver ongoing value and in what ways?
You can learn more about the puzzles companies with successful online communities often face, and find good ideas on how those companies found solutions in the new Our Clients section of site. They have some great stories to tell, and we are very proud of the numerous awards our clients have won. Have you got a social business success story? Please tell us! Our goal is to help you succeed, and we are thrilled to celebrate and support every online community’s continued success.
While you’re on our new site, you can meet the expanded Leader Networks team. This group of social business veterans has the deep experience needed to see social business through the business lens. I and my team — Peter Ward, expert in relationship management; Trish Gilligan, operations guru and former CIO; Ryck Lent, renowned content strategist — have been building online communities since the dawn of the Internet (just ask to see my 300 baud modem!). In fact, we are the perfect team.
Next, feel free to go shopping for resources in our new content library of presentations and publications. We put them online to help your communities become great, and stay great!
Finally, please come by and celebrate in our new virtual digs. Share a success story, or what we’ve come to call “an online community moment,” or just keep us posted on what you’ve come across online. It’s a big virtual world out there, and we community builders should celebrate each other’s successes. Look for our upcoming posts about the ways social business continues to change.