The Five Paths to Enterprise Online Community Engagement
The strategic value of a customer community has finally reach the senior executive level, as well: The value of forging strategic digital relationships with customers is now in the forefront of management thinking today. In a typical example of what business leadership is hearing about now, Bill Lee observed on the Harvard Business Review site recently that building communities is where one of the largest reservoirs of untapped value lies. The goal: Holding one's customers closely, and then harnessing the considerable opportunities for making proactive use of their creativity and bandwidth, cultivating closer and more sustained ties with the company, enabling peer-produced customer care, and providing recognition and status, among other benefits. Lee also noted:
[With customer communities] your prospective customers and buyers increasingly learn about you from their peers — including your current customers — while tending more and more to ignore traditional sales and marketing communications from corporate. Companies are now taking advantage of this new marketing reality, becoming more skilled at getting their customers to advocate for them, create peer influence in their markets, and make important contributions in areas like product development and services.
But companies have to either tap into existing communities or build their own. And, at this point, with available social media attention reaching saturation — as with all things digital — is there actually room for new companies to establish their own communities? Or has the window closed on major new efforts, as most industries already have a market-leading community?
To answer that question, we need to look at some basics for what it takes to create a successful customer community.
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