Forrester Report: Online Communities: Build Or Join? (The answer is ‘When’)

Many interactive marketers and web strategists are unsure of what to do, either to create a campaign on existing social networks (like Facebook, MySpace or Bebo) or to create their own branded social network around or on their corporate website.

Charlene’s keynote yesterday outlined that in 5-10 years that Social Networking will be like “Air” (in the most ubiquitous sense) it currently isn’t present in every aspect of the web, for now, it remains fragmented, separated, and sparse. The industry still wrestles with the options.

I perform the initial phases research on the open wide web (it helps me to get a broad sample of ideas), and also dove in with social media experts as we debated, argued, and even podcasted the concept.

The camps have for the most part, been split. But based upon the calls I’m having with clients, there will be an increase in community spending on social networks, or for companies to create their own. Companies like Dell, Microsoft, Intel, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Wal-Mart have already launched theirs.

A few weeks ago, I published the Forrester Report Online Community Best Practices, it was the first on a two part series, it’s focus, which taught interactive marketers (and web strategists) the processes, roles, and ideology that 17 other companies had success with. Unlike blog posts, real research requires sources other than my own thoughts, of course it’s cemented together through a Forrester methodology, peer collaboraiton, and a very, very intensive editing process.

In this second of two report entitled: Online Communities: Build Or Join? Objectives Should Drive Community Strategy And Technology Decisions. The report gives specific answers after a plan and strategy has been drawn. If you’re a client, you already have access to view the report, or you can purchase it directly from the site, read about your options.

So what should a marketer do? It really depends on your objectives. We’ve found there are five major objectives found in any social computing effort: Listening, Talking, Energizing, Supporting, and Embracing, John has live blogged from a recent conference what each of those are.

Once you determine your objective, the report clearly outlines on how you should approach the problem, including doing initial analysis at finding out where your community currently exists.

At first, writing such a report was difficult, every business situation was different, so I worked with Charlene, who quickly suggested that it’s not an “or” but a “when”.

Interactive Marketers and Brand Strategists need to know when they should join or build a online community.