This year’s Online Community Unconference (West) was held June 10 in Mountain View, CA with 200+ attendees.
Six things I learned:
#1) We are still in early days with online communities – especially communities related to corporate entities — communities sponsored by, or of interest to, corporations. Companies are gingerly figuring out how to build online communities, or how to interact with the communities that already exist.
#2) Many people are figuring out the basics. The fundamentals of how to launch and manage a community is the main focus of today’s Community Managers (CMs). Learnings are out there, but the knowledge base is new and unevenly distributed. Much of the knowledge is in people’s heads (not codified into articles or books yet). Thus, CMs have to proactively learn on-the-job . Many CMs are first-timers in their role, and often there’s nobody in their company who can advise them on CM. So they have to look outside and self-educate.
#3) There will always be tension between the social dynamics of online communities and the objectives of the corporations that interact with them. Community managers have to navigate this tension and advise others in their company about how to manage it.
#4) Many companies and CMs struggle with ROI for communities. Many CMs have not had to think in terms of an ROI analysis before, and many of them have had limited interaction with Finance and executives who think in terms of ROI. See here for notes on how to do a good ROI (including things like cost avoidance and increased average value of customer).
#5) CMs have an invaluable front-line perspective on customers — but companies are just beginning to figure out how to effectively leverage the CMs’ experiences. Most CMs are producing scheduled report-outs, but it’s unclear how effective they are at getting “heard” by the rest of their organization. This is an area for skill development for many CMs.
#6) Business communities differ from consumer communities. (Business online communities = developer communities; product support/customer help communities; business partner communities; etc.) Participation patterns and other behaviors vary greatly across the range of business communities, and from consumer communities. Yet much of the popular wisdom is still based only on the better-known consumer communities.
The list of sessions is here. Most sessions have summaries / notes posted.
Forum One (the conference sponsor) has a number of articles about online communities on their website.
Useful presentations on online communities for business: overview presentation on Enterprise 2.0, Top 10 Reasons to Build an Online Community, Building a Robust Online Community, The Business Case for Online Communities, a step-by-step overview for building an online community.