As someone who manages a large community of users I have been watching for the results of the 2009 Tribalization of Business Study sponsored by Beeline Labs, Deloitte, and the Society for New Communications Research, that looks at how companies leverage communities as part of their business. At Zenoss (my employer) we sponsor and co-develop an open source network management solution in collaboration with our community. Our business revolves around providing support, services, training and commercial extensions to that core project. While we develop features and projects the majority of our innovation comes from our users on how to extend, improve and find new applications for the software.
In the 2008 study it was interesting to note the reasons that companies foster communities. I was curious to see that the top reasons for online communities were amplifying word of mouth and insights marketing research, both excellent benefits provided by a community. I also noticed that benefits that we as a software company like ours gets like Product Testing, Customer Support and New Product Development ranked notably lower.
Francois Gossieaux has some early insights on this year’s survey on his blog:
- We are seeing clear signs of maturity in the marketplace – they include companies realizing the importance of lurkers, their increased focus on providing a heartbeat to their community, and fewer of them being stuck in pilot mode
- At the same time we are still seeing plenty of signs of confusion – they include companies not knowing what objective they are least able to achieve, a continued focus on ad-driven metrics, and a lack of people commitment to communities
- Some big aha moments from this year’s study are that most communities still report in marketing, even though their goals are not all aligned with marketing, and that companies list social reasons rather than commercial reasons for success when asked what community features contribute the most to their communities effectiveness
I am keen to understand their findings around the importance of lurkers. As if you subscribe to the Jakob Nielsen theory of the Inequality of Participation or the 90-9-1 rule which states:
In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.
Looking forward to 2009
Here’s a bit of the foreshadowing from Deloitte on the 2009 results.
Several data points indicate continued maturation of the enterprise’s use of communities and social media. While the number of active users and their level of participation have been considered the top measures of success for an online community, this year survey respondents are paying close attention to non-active users or “lurkers” – people who observe the community, but don’t participate in the discussion.
- 32 percent of respondents are capturing data on how lurkers derive value from the community
- 20 percent of respondents have set up formal “ambassador” programs, which give outsiders preferential treatment in return for being more active in the community
- 39 percent of the respondents indicated that more full-time people are being deployed to manage the communities
I am looking forward to seeing the final report and seeing this year’s trends.
- Press Release about the Study from Deloitte
- 2009 Tribalization of Business Study Highlights Flipbook
- Webinar discussing the survey results
- Slide deck by Francious Gossieaux on the 2008 Tribalization of Business Study
- Results from the 2009 Tribalization of Business Study (socialmediatoday.com)