What Are the Biggest Use Cases For Corporate Online Communities?

My post on the biggest Social CRM (SCRM) use cases set me thinking about the biggest use cases for corporate online communities.

A company can build and host ten different types of communities to serve different business objectives:

1. Communities of Interest: to connect customers and influencers around a lifestyle, an interest or a cause that is related to the company’s or brand’s values.

2. Communities of Practice: to connect customers and influencers around a profession, a skill or an industry that is related to the company’s offerings.

3. Evangelist Communities: to connect customers who are passionate about the company, its products or its brands and energize them to drive advocacy and referrals.

4. Employee Communities: to connect the company’s employees, in order to build an open culture, improve collaboration amongst distributed teams, or enable knowledge-sharing.

5. Partner Communities: to connect the company’s employees and partners, in order to build an open culture, improve collaboration amongst distributed teams, or enable knowledge-sharing.

6. Talent Communities: to showcase the company’s work culture and employees and attract prospective employees to the company.

7. Ideation Communities: to solicit and select product and process improvement ideas from employees, partners, customers and influencers.

8. Research Communities: to identify trends and user behavior related to the company’s industry or products to use in product and process innovation.

9. Social Marketplaces: so that customers can help each other select and purchase a product or service that is most appropriate for them, with some facilitation from company employees.

10. Support Communities: so that customers can help each other solve problems and use products or services in the best way, with some facilitation from company employees.

Each of these ten types of communities differ from each other not only in terms of the business objectives and the business function that owns them, but also in terms of the types and numbers of members, the type and frequency of editorial and user-created content, the functionality required in the community platform, the integration of the community platform with existing social networks and, finally, governance, reputation and reward systems.

Some of these communities are native to B2B or B2C contexts, while others can work across business contexts. Some are public or private by default, while others can work anywhere on the public-private continuum. Some of these communities are built around one primary driver — insights, response, activation, or crowd-sourcing — while others incorporate elements from all four.

The State of Community Management report from the Community Roundtable touches upon some of these aspects in its strategy section, then goes on to discuss the hands-on aspects of community management, based on its Community Maturity Model:

Community Roundtable Community Maturity Model

A particularly insightful comment relates to the 1:9:90 rule –

Unlike a commonly held belief, all communities do not develop a 90-9-1 pattern – i.e. 90% lurkers, 9% contributors, 1% authors and they should not necessarily be built with that expectation. That profile is a good benchmark for large consumer brand communities and product support communities, but is not such a good profile for market research, employee, innovation, or customer advocacy communities.

While the report is thorough and packed with practical tips, here are three ways in which Rachel Happe and Jim Storer can make it even better:

– Include case studies from the Community Roundtable members to bring alive the tips.
– Provide a how-to-guide for the organization to move from the Hierarchy stage to the Emergent Community, Community and Network stages.
– Provide tips by type of community, starting with the ten types of communities I have listed above.

Here are some of my other favorite resources on online communities:

The Art of Community by Jono Bacon
The Tribalization of Business report by Beeline Labs
Building and Sustaining Brand Communities by Radian6

Cross-posted at 2020 Social: Because Business is Social.

As CEO of 2020 Social, I build and nurture online communities for Indian and international clients, connect their customers, partners and employees, and help them achieve their business objectives. Ask us how we can help you.

Related posts:

  1. What Are the Biggest Social CRM (SCRM) Use Cases and Market Opportunities?
  2. 2010 Social Media Predictions: Online Brand Communities Will Come of Age
  3. Business World Case Study: Why Should an Indian Retail Chain Build an Online Customer Community?



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