I am at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco today surrounded by hundreds of other web geeks like myself.
I started off the day at the "Community Building: Good, Bad, and Ugly" session which was moderated by Jeremiah Owyang from Forrester Research and included three panelists: Dawn Foster from Jive Software, Bob Duffy from Intel, and Kellie Parker from PC World and Macworld.
Here's a summary of the panel discussion:
What is the opportunity when it comes to building a community?
Communities provide the platform for your evangelists to shine and talk about your products. This builds brand loyalty and allows you to engage with this audience and also learn and get feedback from them on your company/products.
Should you build or join a community?
Both. When people come to your side you want to give them the ability to interact and engage when they are there but you also want to interact in communities where you are the subject.
What skills are needed to manage a community?
Kellie explains her role as a community manager as the host of a party. Her role is to add value by introducing people and encourage conversation with the different people who show up.
Need to be diplomatic and let negative people know that they were heard. You need to have a customer mindset and remember that you are there to serve them - not the other way around.
You need to balance being an advocate of your company to your community while being the community advocate back to your company.
What are the challenges around community building?
Intel's biggest challenge was the organization and the resources available. To get around this Bob spent a lot of time getting data and building a strong strategy - then spent a few weeks evangelizing the plan to get buy-in and support.
Dawn's challenge was getting people to come after it was built. In this situation they reached out to their influencers and evangelist and they helped spread the word. By brining them in early and giving them beta access to the site they embraced the opportunity.
Dealing with trolls or negative people, don't be quick on the trigger. Be patient and allow the community to jump in . If your evangelists jump in it is seen as much more credible.
Getting people to engage can be a challenge. In this case Kellie recommends starting with something simple that everyone has an answer to.
What's the ROI, how do you measure success?
The common answer - it's based on the objective. Intel looked at organic traffic and how much their blogs and forums are driving that traffic as well as the increased number of logins and registration. Their goal is to build a stronger, loyal customer base. Jive is looking at participation and the number of messages posted. They don't try to tie it to sales and look at the community as an awareness tool. PC World/Macworld looks at both page views and interaction with number of messages posted.