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Online Communities Technology Overview

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Online Communities and Social Networks have transformed the Marketing
landscape in the last ten years. From pioneers such as Myspace to the
behemoths of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Online Communities
have become digital neighborhoods, hangouts and intersections of
commerce.

Marketers have found the global Social Networks to be both a benefit
and a challenge. The benefit is the ability to reach millions of prospective
customers with the click of a mouse. The challenge is be seen and heard
in a growing cacophony of marketing noise. Increasingly, marketers are
finding that the answer is to create private or company-owned Online
Communities set apart from the social mainstream and dedicated to the
needs of their unique customers.

Company-owned online communities are websites that act as engagement
engines. They enable companies to create social relationships with
customers and prospects and to foster peer-to-peer relationships that
drive engagement with the company, brand, product or service.

Activities include blogs, forums, Q&A, groups, contests, Gamification, SEO,
and Social Media integrations.

Increasingly, companies are using these communities for crowdsourcing
and ideation to drive innovation and new product development. Online
Communities are also useful for identifying potential advocates who can
be further engaged using the Advocacy and Loyalty platforms.

In this report, we examine company-owned Online Communities rather
than the large social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Our Online Communities Vendor Landscape provides a detailed look at
the landscape, vendors and solutions for Online Communities.

The goal is to enable Modern Marketing organizations to make effective
investment decisions about the private Online Community platforms
and tools that best fit their broader Customer Engagement strategy.

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Online Communities Technology Overview

  1. 1. ONLINE COMMUNITIES TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW
  2. 2. Table of Contents 1 3 2 5 3 8 4 10 13 12 Executive Summary Online Communities Overview Online Communities Vendor Landscape Evolution of the Landscape Analyst Bottom Line Technology Overview Methodology About Demand Metric ONLINE COMMUNITIES Technology Overview 14
  3. 3. Executive Summary ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW
  4. 4. 4EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Online Communities and Social Networks have transformed the Marketing landscape in the last ten years. From pioneers such as Myspace to the behemoths of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Online Communities have become digital neighborhoods, hangouts and intersections of commerce. Marketers have found the global Social Networks to be both a benefit and a challenge. The benefit is the ability to reach millions of prospective customers with the click of a mouse. The challenge is be seen and heard in a growing cacophony of marketing noise. Increasingly, marketers are finding that the answer is to create private or company-owned Online Communities set apart from the social mainstream and dedicated to the needs of their unique customers. Company-owned online communities are websites that act as engagement engines. They enable companies to create social relationships with customers and prospects and to foster peer-to-peer relationships that drive engagement with the company, brand, product or service. Activities include blogs, forums, Q&A, groups, contests, Gamification, SEO, and Social Media integrations. Increasingly, companies are using these communities for crowdsourcing and ideation to drive innovation and new product development. Online Communities are also useful for identifying potential advocates who can be further engaged using the Advocacy and Loyalty platforms. In this report, we examine company-owned Online Communities rather than the large social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Our Online Communities Vendor Landscape provides a detailed look at the landscape, vendors and solutions for Online Communities. The goal is to enable Modern Marketing organizations to make effective investment decisions about the private Online Community platforms and tools that best fit their broader Customer Engagement strategy. Executive Summary For a review of those networks and the platforms that support them, please download our Social Media Marketing Solution Study. ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING Solution Study Insights, Landscape & Vendor Analysis V I E W R E S O U R C E
  5. 5. Online Communities Overview ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW
  6. 6. 6ONLINE COMMUNITIES OVERVIEW Demand Metric defines Online Communities as website and private Social Networks that enable members to interact in a controlled setting and are created and maintained by a company or group to foster communication among peers or likeminded individuals. Online Community platforms include the processes, technologies and tools that enable a community to be built, managed and measured for growth, revenue and profits. Online Communities Overview ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW The Power of Online Customer Engagement We now know that the buyers travel up to 75% of their journey before directly engaging with the company in consideration. Equally, we know that most of the journey takes place online. While off-line Customer Engagement still occurs, it plays a decreasing role in the buyer’s journey. Instead, new Customer Experience or Engagement platforms that offer Personalization and Advocacy and Loyalty capabilities enable vendors to reach customers through other channels with customized offers while they are physically in the store or shopping online. The trend is obvious even in the B2B space where due to the nature and size of the transactions, sales teams are more personally and directly involved. Today’s sales teams are more likely to rely on tablet-driven, cloud-powered presentation tools and apps to provide the prospective customer with the best experience. Increasingly, companies are using these communities for crowdsourcing and ideation to drive innovation and new product development. Online Communities are also useful for identifying potential advocates who can be further engaged using the Advocacy and Loyalty platforms. Demand Metric’s State of Online Communities for Support study found that for organizations that have an online community as part of their support process, half report a moderate or significant contribution to revenue. 50%
  7. 7. 7ONLINE COMMUNITIES OVERVIEW ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW The Future of Online Communities is Private While the global Social Networks continue to grow exponentially, a revolution is happening with consumers, companies and brands: the private Online Community is displacing the public network for many groups and activities. Private Online Communities give marketers and brands much more control over information and social interaction. They offer customers more privacy, a higher level of interaction and stronger trust in both the community and the content provided. They can be precisely tuned to the needs of a specific group of customers. Private Online Communities can have levels, such as newcomer to VIP, be gamified and are more secure than the public networks. Members love them because they can cut through the clutter and get exactly what they need while sharing their passions and insights with others who will most appreciate them. They get their questions answered by members with more experience and expertise in the subject at hand. In analyzing this market, Demand Metric has found that among members trust is higher, loyalty is stronger and people are more engaged and willing to participate. Demand Metric believes that companies and brands will increasingly shift marketing and advertising spends away from the global Social Networks and toward private Online Communities. Learn what the customer support landscape looks like and how effective crowd based, self-service support channels are working within our State of Online Communities report. V I E W R E S O U R C E
  8. 8. 8ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWGAMIFICATION Online Communities Vendor Landscape ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW
  9. 9. 9 Online Communities Vendor Landscape Download Demand Metric’s Online Communities Vendor Matrix to review the key vendors for this space. Vendors are detailed by target industries, key offerings, unique strengths and current customers. ONLINE COMMUNITIES VENDOR LANDSCAPE As previously mentioned, this vendor landscape focuses on private Online Communities. Solutions from Online Community vendors range from basic web community-building platforms, such as Disqus and Ning designed for forums, chat blogging and commenting, to sophisticated Social Community platforms with web content management, intranet collaboration and detailed analytics from vendors, such as DNN, Lithium, Vanilla Forums, Salesforce Community, and Higher Logic. Marketers should expect an Online Community solution to provide at a minimum a fundamental set of community-building capabilities. These include forums, blogs, chats, reviews, Q&A, badges, contests, photos and videos, and social widgets. From that basis, vendors’ solutions focus on specific requirements such as eCommerce, intranet/workplace collaboration, social curation and storytelling, and social advertising for media and advertising. ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW 105 V I E W R E S O U R C E
  10. 10. 10ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWGAMIFICATION Evolution of the Landscape ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW
  11. 11. 11EVOLUTION OF THE LANDSCAPE The early days of private Online Communities were characterized by forums, bulletin boards and chat rooms for Q&A and idea sharing. The marketers’ role was mainly Social Listening and Monitoring to understand customer behavior with dialog moderation. A second stage emerged as Online Communities became destinations where people went for higher trust information via reviews, tribal-based knowledge, email and community support, special-interest blogs, and photo and video sharing. The third stage, which has emerged over the last five years or so, is the development of true eCommerce communities. These communities are designed for Marketing, Sales, and Customer Care Enablement. They are built specifically for Advocacy and Loyalty applications, include sophisticated Gamification engines, are connected to Web Content Management systems and integrate with Enterprise CRM and Marketing Automation systems. They also include Social Network channel integration and offer a range of analytics from visitor profiles to advanced analytics for tracking customer inter- ests, behavior and sentiment. Rather than being “attached” to the company website as a separate area, they are becoming natively integrated so that moving from the visitor-based website to the community is seamless. The future of private Online Communities is clear. Private Online Commu- nities will increasingly become the company or brand’s primary website and engagement point with their customers, a virtual “settlement.” Initial entry will be via a simple intro landing page or portal for basic information gathering and customer qualification. That will be followed by a fast push into the community where deeper engagement, VoC/Feedback, Loyalty and Advocacy platforms will enable Marketing, Sales and Customer Care teams to create more sustainable relationships for measureable customer lifetime value. Evolution of the Landscape ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW ADVOCACY AND LOYALTY TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW V I E W R E S O U R C E Our Advocacy and Loyalty Technology Overview highlights the advocacy and loyalty technology space at a high-level.
  12. 12. 12ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWANALYST BOTTOM LINE Analyst Bottom Line Private Online Communities are a key component of Customer Engagement providing a destination and a virtual settlement where customers can have the best possible experience with the company, product and service. Market trends in the global Social networks are making it more difficult and expensive to reach and engage with customers through public channels. It is imperative that marketers build private Online Communities that will enable them to provide a unique, highly tailored experience for each customer and lay the foundation for creating measurable and profitable Customer Engagement.
  13. 13. 13TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW METHODOLOGY ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW Technology Overview Methodology The Modern Marketing landscape is an ever-changing, ever-evolving environment in which new strategies, technologies, vendors and products appear continually. Demand Metric Technology Overviews provide marketers with a focus on a specific technology solution set or focus area so that they are armed with the knowledge, information and tools they need to development effective strategies for their organizations. Each Technology Overview involves hours of analyst research (mainly publicly available information), is for a specific technology solution, and is usually accompanied by several practical tools. Our Customer Engagement series includes Technology Overviews on Online Event Marketing Advocacy and Loyalty Gamification Our practical tools are designed to provide marketers with the tools and templates they need to plan for an initiative in a given focus area, analyze the vendor landscape and select the best vendor for their organization. We provide a comprehensive overview of Customer Engagement in the companion report – Customer Engagement Best Practices Report. V I E W R E S O U R C E
  14. 14. 14ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWABOUT DEMAND METRIC About Demand Metric Demand Metric is a marketing research and advisory firm serving a membership community of over 120,000 marketing profes- sionals and consultants in 75 countries. Offering consulting methodologies, advisory services, and 500+ premium marketing tools and templates, Demand Metric resources and expertise help the marketing community plan more efficiently and effectively, answer the difficult questions about their work with authority and conviction and complete marketing projects more quickly and with greater confidence, boosting the respect of the marketing team and making it easier to justify resources the team needs to succeed. To learn more about Demand Metric, please visit: www.demandmetric.com
  15. 15. 15ONLINE COMMUNITIES: TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWGAMIFICATION © Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. www.demandmetric.com Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Join Linkedin Group

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