The fourth Social Media Breakfast (SMB) Ottawa, held today at Gowlings, had a huge turnout. I’m thinking the topic of online communities is definitely a hot topic for the city.
- Luc Levesque, Founder & General Manager, TravelPod (A TripAdvisor / Expedia Company)
- Gérard Métrailler, Senior Director, Product Management, Graphics, Corel Corporation
- Ian Skerrett, Director of Marketing, Eclipse Foundation
- With Jens Evans, Founder and Chief Strategist, Sequentia Evironics (Toronto) as the panel moderator
Their expertise comes from actually implementing online communities for B2B and B2C engagement.
Jen presented various statements about online community and social media engagement, of which the panelists had the opportunity to agree or disagree. The audience chimed in with their own view points which was fantastic.
Without further ado, here is a quick run-down of the panel discussion…
60% to 70% of any community are lurkers and won’t actively engage (post comments or contribute content)
- Had a 50/50 split on audience agreement with this number
- Ian – don’t fret about it since you will have a core group who will contribute and carry community engagement. The number will build over time
A blog is a community
- Gerard – in isolation, no. But as part of a collection of blogs that share common interests, yes.
- Ian – blog is a tool to build community but not a community in itself
According to Gartner Research, 50% of soical media and community programs in Fortune 1000 companies will fail by 2010
- Luc – by not incorporating community measurement into programs, your initiative will fail. You need to understand the value social media / online community can bring to your business (and your customers)
- Gerard – thinks 50% is low and the number is probably higher
Most important characteristic of a community is vibrancy (activity, engagement), etc
- Ian – important to give your audience something to talk about and do this regularly to bring fresh content to the community
- Luc – spur conversations to turn lurkers into participants
- 70% agreement from the audience with this statement
Makes no business sense to give competitors access to your community conversations. Closed communities are the way to go.
- Gerard – Corel builds open communities except for the beta community. Once product is releases, the community opens because Corel wants to capture product conversations on their own communities versus trying to find them elsewhere on the web
- Luc – depends on the situation – sometimes it makes sense to have a closed community
- Ian – to grow your community, it needs to be open otherwise it can be hard to build buy-in. It also depends on your audience and objective
Search and ongoing member acquisition is critical to health of any community
- Luc – absolutely essential. Measure through the number of people coming in and how engaged they are. Use search marketing to feed community content into search engines as way to grow awareness
- Ian – new and acquired member engagement is equally important. Need to look at diversity of your membership base (geography, age, expertise, etc)
- Gerard – Corel uses a combination of organic and paid search marketing to build community growth. Work with evangelists to welcome new members and encourage them to interact.
Building successful communities is a full-time strategic endeavour and requires a team, thought and planning
- Ian – adhere to certain best practices: have relevent content, have a visible community leader (ambassador) who champions the community, make it easy to join, involve the whole organization
- Luc – need to know your community objective and you need someone to administer the community. Your company needs to be involved (engaging members and contributing content) to demonstrate commitment.
- Gerard – Corel is a customer-driven company and sees community as one way to focus on customer needs
Online community and social media programs will be a casualty as businesses seek to pare down costs during current economic crunch
- Gerard – once your community hits a critical mass, it can be self-sustaining and require little economic investment.
- Luc – if your community or social media engagement can’t be measures, expect it to be affected. Don’t look at revenue ROIs as the necessary pull-plug factor. Look at other key performance indicators such as decrease in support calls (and therefore decrease in support costs)
- Ian – often can be less expensive than traditional marketing initiatives. Ensure your community offers value to members to ensure its longevity
- Audience felt communities are mission critical to corporate objectives and thus won’t be a casualty
Blogs start every 1.4 seconds. The only way to stand out in the clamour for attention is to focus and go niche
- Ian – it’s marketing 101 – have an objective and purpose and a target audience
- Luc – have to have good product and/or good makreting
- Gerard – focus on a niche – know your audience and the value you deliver
During Q&A there were lots of questions around social media metrics…
- Gerard – track where people are coming from using traditional analytics tools but to track what people are doing in the community, you’ll need to either find a platform that offers this analysis natively, find a community analytics tool or build one in-house
- Ian – a good place to start is to look at trends in downloads from the community. Track the people who contributing value (number of people and what they are contributing). Find out how they found and then joined the community to get your conversion metric
And that’s my recap in a nutshell! For another perspective on SMB Ottawa 4, check out Joe Boughner’s post at www.joeboughner.ca. If you’ve come across other reviews/recaps of the event, please share them via the comments section below
On a related note – my first video blog interviews…
After the event, Simon Chen and I sat down with Jen Evans to discuss Sequentia-Environics’ role in helping companies implement their community engagement.
Look for my first ever video blog postings on these two interviews in the near future.