Online Community Blueprint
Filed under: Marketing Strategy, Online Communities, Social Media | Tags: basic social media components, brandable web interface, building blocks of interactions, community platforms, latest online tools, online community blueprint, role based access, semantic web, Social Media, user experience, web 2.0, web 2.0 desktop |
Social media, online communities, web 2.0, semantic web, etc… For most people, our understanding is Facebook, Linkedin, or the latest online tools. For some of us who approach these “tools” strategically; they represent a major shift in the user experience, relationships, and productivity. This post is an ideas piece as the online community experience. I will define is still out of reach for most organizations, but I think that there is value in defining where online communities can go, are going.
Online Community is about taking the ability to bring interactions that are happening today in business onto the web; enabling them with the flexibility and simplicity needed to allow business users to adopt these new technologies without a great deal of training or relying on software developers to customize. The ability to add web applications, social media tools like blogs and wikis, and layer business process around these tools in a way that supports the complexity and collaborative nature of enterprises is critical in allowing organizations to reach sufficient adoption rates. They can see a tangible return on the investment in these tools.
Probably should define online community functionality for those who are not as familar. The community platforms that I have worked with have the following characteristics:
1. Brandable Web Interface – ability to stylize the interface, layout, and components on the page sufficient flexibility to provide a uniquely branded experience.
2. Basic Social Media Components – basic building blocks of interaction; profile, my page, relationships, blog, content sharing, content syndication, groups, search, tags, calendaring, messaging, etc. Basics doesn’t mean everyone does them the same, does them well, or allows you to customize the workflow. Customization will be a critical factor in how to drive adoption. I just listed the basics, but the Enterprise Social Media platforms all have their unique features and functionality that dwarf this list. You should be able to turn on and off components based upon the specific requirements of your community, groups, or even users.
Online Community Wishlist
- Control over ease-of-usability not only in styling, but also in functionality and workflow
- Ability to tier community membership and rights to allow for unique experiences and exclusive offerings
- Service diverse audiences within community with the ability to model the unique needs of targeted groups within the overall buying community either by role, segment within financial services, geographic make-up of the organization, size of organization, and other criteria
- Integrate additional 3rd party applications, widgets, web services, and syndicated content quickly into the community without requiring extensive planning and technical support.
- Ability to port community model into new verticals with different styling, functionality, and workflow without requiring software development and coding.
- Build unique visualizations of key customer reports and analytics on the fly to increase the value of the service offering
- Integrate document management and content workflow to integrate customer’s current offering into the community
- Introduce new product functionality and features at the marketing level provide to focus groups and market feedback in real-time without lengthy development cycles.
- Provide internal functional line managers with a “Web 2.0 Desktop” for managing their corporate profile, collaboration, communication, workspace, and relationships that is fully integrated with the external customer community
- Integrate with enterprise applications like corporate websites, ERP, CRM, enterprise content management, intranets, support knowledge bases, intranets, project management tools, and other enterprise systems to enable users to collaborate and communicate around these systems seamlessly.
To take it one step further, I would like to see enterprise community platforms become the “face” of the company where employees and customers interact within the community environment. Based upon who you are, what your role is, and what you are trying to accomplish; you are provided an interface to meet your needs and interact with others. Security, reporting, and system integration all happen seamlessly behind the scenes to enable users to focus on using the system without worrying about how it works.
If I am a customer, I get access to the groups that relate to my product interests and markets. I interact with other customers, prospects, and the key employees who service my relationship. The employees have access to the internal (private) and external (public or membership) groups that are relavent to their work. They can see more of the “customer” profile that includes past purchases and contact information that a non-employee wouldn’t. The employee groups may also have a great deal more functionality; access to systems, reports, content, and search capabilities that a external “topic” group would not provide. Partners may be given access to key groups and system access on an as-needed basis.
Platform adoption is driven by providing the right amount of functionality and content “just-in-time” in a more organic, fluid way. I see the “post-digital” world as one where I can interact seamlessly and without thought as to whether the interaction is online or offline. For many of us, this is happening today, many relationships start/restart at a social media site, transition to email, then phone, then in person, and then seamlessly through each of the mediums.
Good relationships are fluid and are built upon a flexible foundation. Good communities are built the same way.