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Online Communities are Organizational Silo Breakers

Written by Molly Talbert | on March 7, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Online communities are organizational silo breakers 

What department should be involved in their organization’s community? Generally, people would say it depends on what type of community it is. Some might say support, since communities are a natural gathering place for customers to seek help. Others might say human resources, if it’s an employee intranet.

But, to be honest, that was a trick question - many departments can (and should) be part of their organization’s community. No matter what the community is for - customer support, ambassador programs, association member engagement or an employee intranet - it should be a place where many people in the organization comes together to support the community and learn from members. Sure, not everyone needs to be involved in the community, but for relevant teams, it makes working together easier.

And if that sounds idealistic, it’s not - according to The Leader Networks’ new Business Impacts of Online Communities study, communities are, in fact, organizational silo breakers.

What does the silo breaker look like?

In their study, Leader Networks surveyed hundreds of communities in order to glean clear business trends and impacts. They uncovered some surprising and revealing statistics when it comes to who, within an organization, participates in the community and benefits from it.

Contrary to what one might believe, in many communities across industries, multiple departments participate by creating content and sharing expertise or by taking other actions. Marketing clearly dominates - 79% marketing teams participate in community - but they definitely aren’t the only ones who bring something to the table. 52% of operations/support teams participate, followed by 48% of corporate communications teams and 36% of strategy teams.

Participating in the community doesn’t just bring these departments closer to their customers or users - it strengthens each department and makes both the community and organization stronger. Rather than working on their own, when departments are brought together through community, they can easily share knowledge, content and ideas.

The numbers change a little bit depending on the industry or the community purpose. For example, operations/support team participation was more common in organizations with customer communities (64%) than communities without (32%). Another big difference regards sales - sales teams are more likely to participate in a B2B and B2C organizations (45%) than with associations or non-profits (13%).

Regardless of the differences between industries or community types, there does seem to be a clear trend - communities are a big investment and many people within an organization can benefit from them.

Marketing is the gateway department

Although so many people and departments benefit from and are involved with communities, a natural next question is, “who is in charge?”

And the answer, according to their survey, is: almost always marketing. From their research surveying hundreds of community professionals, Leader Networks found that marketing usually owns the community budget and operations (38%). Corporate communications comes in as a far second place (12%).

Leader Networks described it this way: “Communities are orchestras, and marketing is the conductor.”

It makes sense that marketing owns and runs so many communities, since 57% of community leaders see retaining current customers as a major value in community. And owning the community puts marketing in a very strategic position to not just maintain customers and partners, but to also create relationships with prospective customers, partners and employees.

Community is changing organizational structures

But as influential as marketing can be, they can’t do it all by themselves. And by working so closely with other departments because of the community, organizations are changing from the inside out. Here’s an example from Rob Shapiro, Community Strategist, (Former Sr. Director, My Oracle Support Community):

“More and more companies are integrating support, customer success, and even development when they are thinking about new or improved communities. Make sure that any and all site searches also go to the community to get community content. Transform existing 1-1 enhancement request processes to incorporate an idea exchange instead. Users, support staff, and development will all benefit from this many-to-many process.”

Breaking departmental and internal silos has a real, pertinent impact on organizations. Communities not only connect organizations more strongly with customers or members, but they can also connect the cogs within the organization more closely, streamlining and innovating internal processes.

Original research explains the impact online communities have on businesses.

Topics: Engagement, Marketing

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