A Deloitte study that came out this morning shows a much deeper interest in the social web but still a lot of potential left to tap.
This is the second year Deloitte LLC has evaluated the perceived potential of online communities and how enterprises believe it can be better leveraged. The study, interestingly titled "Tribalization of Business," measures the responses of more than 400 companies, including Fortune 100 organizations that have created and now maintain online communities.
If you have been involved in the development of the social Web, these results will not be a huge surprise. People these days know more about the tools available but are a bit stymied on how to maximize them. The results show that online tools are used to engage with customers, partners and employees on brand discussions and idea generation. Still, they continue to struggle with harnessing social media's full potential.
Here are some of the results of the study:
The Market is Maturing
The study shows that the number of people participating in social media efforts is always the top measure of success. But this year, the results show a deeper interest in non-active users, or "lurkers": people who observe the community but don't participate in the discussion.
- 32% of respondents are capturing data on how lurkers derive value from the community.
- 20% of respondents have set up formal "ambassador" programs, which give outsiders preferential treatment in return for being more active in the community.
- 39% of respondents indicated that more full-time people are being deployed to manage their communities.
What's the True Measure of Success?
The obstacles to success are issues that bloggers can certainly relate to in their efforts to encourage people to become lasting members of an online community. The study reports the challenges in getting people to:
- Join: 24% of respondents identified this as an obstacle.
- Stay engaged: 30% of respondents cited this as a challenge.
- Return: 21% said they have difficulty getting people to return to the online community.
More Engagement Is a Community Effort
Adoption is one thing, but full-on immersion of the enterprise community in the social Web is a whole other matter. As practitioners, we know that the key to any such effort is to avoid making it one group or department's job to develop the online community. The cultural shift requires practice, the freedom to experiment and the cultivation of a core community across the enterprise whose members serve as the main influencers.
It's interesting to note the rise of the community manager and how it correlates to the Deloitte study. Companies do view the role of the community manager as increasingly important. Yet the effort to make it all work has to be network-wide. And the only way to do that is to get more people involved into the process, so that idea flow and the returns start showing up in real, tangible ways.
It's a different way of thinking. For example, social media campaigns are often framed in traditional marketing practices. But really, the possibilities of social technology are infinite. Traditional media campaigns have a beginning and end. Social technology fuels conversation. One, five, ten or ten thousand people could all be stirring up and participating in conversations using social media tools. The conversation has a time dimension that just runs on and on. As we noted yesterday, this is why social tools adopt a river-of-news style. With such an activity stream, the conversation is endless.
The issue has to do with participating in the discussion, which looks like the main concern of respondents. The majority agreed that the following points continue to be the top business objectives of online communities:
- Increase word of mouth (38%),
- Increase customer loyalty (34%),
- Increase brand awareness (30%),
- Improve idea generation (29%),
- Improve the quality of customer support (23%).
Deloitte seems to be right on with the next steps to take.
- Think tribe, not market segment
- Think network, not channel
- Think customer-centric, not company-centric.
Overall, the results of the Deloitte study are quite encouraging. The enterprise is shifting in its thinking and will gradually change in all facets of how it operates. Management structures will change. Decisions about technology purchases will be affected. And hopefully, the enterprise will be a better place for everyone in the eco-system.