All businesses seem to want build their own online communities, but how do you convince the Board of the measurable value you can derive from this approach?

Having a website originally enabled businesses to build their own promotional platform. Today’s ‘social’ technology capability lets us take things much deeper and build online environments where we can engage with people (known as eCRM), rather than simply present them with information. Perhaps more importantly, we can now also enable our customers to communicate with each other directly (known as Social CRM)

The arguments in favour of building your own community are particularly strong from a marketing perspective: build brand engagement, generate data and insight, increase the number of touchpoints with your customers, enable a more personal relationship/interaction, and increase brand awareness without buying expensive media space.

There’s plenty of research that suggests all of these things can have a positive effect on the bottom line, but is that really a strong enough argument to convince your CEO or FD to sign off a potentially chunky budget? Probably not.

For every thriving online community, there are many more that are like ghost towns. Differentiate vs others is increasingly difficult, and the cost of fully integrating your online community and ‘business as usual’ processes.

This is an area where we have  experience, and we view that the flow of value from a community follows this circular process:

  • Clearly define your objectives
  • Design and implement a social engagement platform
  • Extract data from the activity on the platform
  • Derive insight from this data
  • Use this insight to make better business decisions
  • Define/enhance your value proposition, enabling you to become more successful and profitable.

If that looks simplistic it’s because ultimately, it is. Of course there is a depth of work and complexity behind every stage that has people, process, technology and budget considerations, but by working these through it is possible to arrive at stronger forecasts and better thought out rationale to take to the Board.