Francois Gossieaux from Beeline Labs, along with Deloitte and the Society for New Communications
has done some great research on how organizations are using online communities in both the business-to-business (b2b) and business-to-consumer (b2c) contexts (some nonprofits were included in the mix as well). Over 140 organizations were included in the study, which covered online business communities with only a few dozen members, all the way up to communities with over 10,000 members.
Here’s a link to the Tribalization of Business study results.
Some key quotes from Francois about the findings, by way of an interview with Shel Israel:
On organizational structure: "Most community efforts ended up reporting in to the CMO, even though
that is not where they all originated. In the recent past, most
community activities started somewhere as a skunkworks project – only
to be rolled into the CMO’s turf after the program gained recognition."
On technology versus strategy: "Another surprise was how many companies started their community
initiatives as a technology platform decision – only to realize that if
you build it, they may not come. Some very successful community
executives suggested that if your community cannot survive in a Yahoo!
Group-like discussion environment, it will probably not survive
anywhere. One of the more important factors for the success of
community initiatives is the content strategy for the community – not
the technology strategy." (emphasis added)
On bringing marketing back to the customer perspective: "We believe that CMOs have an opportunity to transform their role
into that of Chief Customer Officer – and represent the Voice of the
Customer at the executive table…Leveraging the power of communities and the customer insights that
they provide could put CMOs back in the strategic seats where they
The last word: "Please, don’t start your community project as a technology platform selection."