Social business is all too often discussed in broad, homogeneous terms.
For instance, B2B online customer communities are a very different animal than B2C communities. B2B online communities foster long-term relationships to promote peer-to-peer problem solving and enhancing products, while the aim of B2C online communities is usually geared toward directly increasing market share or brand awareness.
We recently launched a web show and podcast for social business professionals which highlights how organizations can use online communities to drive business performance. The first episode features a discussion with Vanessa DiMauro of the research and social consulting firm, Leader Networks.
Based on her vast experience, she offered these tips for creating a B2B online customer community:
The goals that you set for your online customer community should be traceable back to organizational goals. If not, your online community initiative will be on the chocking block during every round of strategic planning.
Your online customer community is an extension of your product. Just as you test product ideas with customers before developing them, validate your online community's value proposition with your target audiences before moving forward in the social business planning process.
Companies are just now beginning to wrap their arms around the wealth of data coming from their online customer community, and it is not just marketing and customer support that reap the rewards. Set up processes to mine your online community data to benefit departments all across your company.
Rather than creating new initiatives in closed-door meetings in a sunbaked conference room, let your online community drive your priorities. Making decisions in a vacuum increases the chances of missing the mark in customer support plans, new products or services, and thought-leadership. Keeping your ear to the ground in your online community inserts a constant market-driven data stream into your company's decision making.
Companies are really good as identifying what is in it for them in creating an online customer community. Make sure your organization puts equal, if not more, emphasis how the online community will help your customers. It is important to maintain that focus throughout the planning process, no matter how strong the pressure is to revert to an inward company focus.
Serving your customers, prospects, and partners is just good business. It was before online community technology existed and it is now. Don't let you team get caught up in the hype of social business when measuring the success of your online community strategy. Base your online community's metrics on the same metrics you use to measure your success with your target audiences using any other tools.
What has your experience been building B2B online customer communities? Leave your tips and war stories in the comment section below.