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.

11 Replies to “Forrester Report: Online Communities: Build Or Join? (The answer is ‘When’)”

  1. Still need to purchase the “Online Community Best Practices”.

    I still straddle both camps. I am currently leading the charge to do both in my company.

    We have built out our own….and making sure we have an ongoing “active” presence on all the major networks.

    Shouldn’t have to be black and white…..

  2. Kin, we believe that in the future, it will often be both, not one or the other. But for many, it will be one or the other, until we are in a ubiquitous social networking world.

    The key thing is to know ‘when’ you need to do either.

  3. Eddie

    You’re right.

    It is unprofessional, but also a good reminder why professional editing is important compared to this blogging. Thanks for catching that.

  4. This is an interesting post. You should submit it at Yearblook is a competition to find each day™s best blog posts. At the end of the year, the 365 best posts (1 from each day) will be published in a book (a real, printed book, you will find it on Amazon).

  5. In my opinion, it is not a question of either or. I believe a presence in existing networks is an absolute imperative; there is no excuse for not creating a presence in those forums in which your customers are already present. As you recently point out, Jeremiah, you need to fish where the fish are. The question for me is whether the organisation can successfully create its own network. I am dubious about whether this is universally achievable.

  6. I don’t think we have heard the last word on build own vs participate in another network.

    I think there are a variety of scenarios where social networking still has potential. In niches, for eg, in association web sites, in internal networking within an organization, etc.

    Two, any promotion of a social networking web site will involve some kind of promotion on the Facebooks, & Orkuts of the world.

    So this is not a cut and dry question. Many will create new networks which are niche/ interest/ audience based. They will use the majos to promote it.

    My 2 cents worth.


  7. Each of the option has its advantages and disadvantages but taking findability into account too, it just makes sense to adopt both build and join.

    Nevertheless, it is o easy process which makes your report highly covetable, Jeremiah.


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