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Reporting on the Best and Worst of Online Communities

Two important reports were released today with enlightening perspectives on social networking and online communities. Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research released their Best and Worst of Social Networking, 2008, and Deloitte release the 2008 Tribalization of Business Survey, where the WSJ reports on the study's findings of why most online communities fail.

The Forrester report has some of the more interesting results, with a great report card of notable case studies:

Forrester applied its Social Network Marketing Review methodology to programs run by 16 firms in four industries: automotive, media, technology, and consumer products. Only the BMW Series 1 received a passing grade, and half of the firms scored a zero or lower. But even with these dismal overall results, we found examples of specific best practices: The Dell/Microsoft (Red) program provided a rich media theme that was easily sharable, Sony's BMG page for Alicia Keys was personable and interactive, and Kraft's DiGiorno Pizza delivered a unique interactive experience with its members. To improve social network marketing, brands must develop community-centered content and activities, measure success based on new criteria, and be prepared to participate.

Owyang continues:

Although some of them have changed since we first started to judge the 16 social network marketing efforts are:
Note: A passing score is a minimum of 8.

Automotive BMW 1 Series scores a 9 (Pass) read more Mazda3 scores a -1 Chevy scores a 3 (who sponsored the effort at the time) Ford scores a -4

Media HBO’s Entourage scores a 2 FOX News scores a -4 Disney: Enchanted Movie scores a -4 Sony BMG’s Alicia Keys scores a 7

Technology Samsung’s Blast scores a -3 Dell/Microsoft (RED) scores a 6 Microsoft’s Windows Server Live scores a 6 Intel scores a -5

Consumer Products Nike scores a 2 Kraft’s DiGiorno Pizza scores a 5 Pepsi’s Aquafina scores a -2 Mars: Skittles & Starburst scores a 0

Where Owyang's report focuses on social network marketing, Deloitte consultant Ed Moran also provides helpful insights into why so many online communities fail.

Thirty-five percent of the online communities studied have less than 100 members; less than 25% have more than 1,000 members – despite the fact that close to 60% of these businesses have spent over $1 million on their community projects.

Moran points to several missteps organizations continue to commit:

  1. They have a tendency to get seduced by bells and whistles and blow their online-community budget on technology.
  2. They don't properly staff and manage the online community.
  3. They measure the wrong metrics.

For the brand looking to participate in online communities, hopefully these latest findings will steer them in the right direction of developing a solid strategy of engaging their customers in existing networks, like MySpace and Facebook, with the proper staffing in place to do their brand and customers justice.


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