Your online community will not be as popular as Apple's iPad was when it launched. It may not even be as popular, as the HP whatever-it-was-called tablet when it was launched. I'm here to tell you that it is OK.
For marketing and membership professionals who are nervous about getting customers to use, engage with, and return to your private online customer or member community, this may be the best news you have heard all year.
However, this does not mean that there is not a lot of work to do planning and following your social business strategy. It also takes a deep understanding of what to expect after your launch as your online community grows. Now that the pressure is off to grow like Apple, lets walk through the steps of one of the best online community maturity models, developed by our friends at The Community Roundtable.
Online Community Stage 1: Hierarchy
This stage is all about experimentation and can be a bit chaotic. Frustration with the existing customer experience and internal collaboration models cause your staff to understand the end goals, despite confusion about what is realistic for the organization and its culture.
What Should Your Organization Focus On? Your organization's strategy and culture
Characteristics of stage 2 include auditing resources, getting multiple departments on the same page operationally, and developing policies and procedures to effectively manage your online community. Early evangelists are critical and the potential business value becomes clearer. However, organizations should be aware of internal impatience to see a return on their investment during this stage.
What Should Your Organization Focus On? Structure: governance, programs, and content, as well as communicating that patience is needed
As your team begins to understand their role in the community, your online community begins to deliver tangible results to your organization and can even spawn new business models. As the community starts to run on its own and positively impact departments across your company, avoid internal power struggles and deprioritizing community management.
What Should Your Organization Focus On? Community management and measurement
Stage 4 is about transforming the way that your organization sees its role in your market or industry. By opening up your leadership and communication channels, your organization has a tremendous opportunity position itself at the center of your market ecosystem. Keep in mind that it is alright if your online community does not get to the networked stage.
What Should Your Organization Focus On? Strategic leadership and tone of your engagement
Understanding this model helps social business professionals to level set both internal and external stakeholders, while giving community managers and business-unit owners time to build a solid foundation of engagement and collaboration with their customers or members.