The 4 Most Common Online Community Pitfalls

Just under 20 years ago we launched our first online insight community. In an era where traditional research was dominated by focus groups, it was ambitious: it was experimental. Today, that experiment has become accepted mainstay, and a go-to method for gathering insights.

C Space

June 20, 2018

The tool and approach we pioneered went on to define a category.

Over the course of two decades, we’ve built customers into the ways that companies work. We’ve confidently witnessed some of the world’s leading brands begin to work with customers as partners. 490,000 customers, 20 languages and 92 countries later, we’ve seen our clients businesses become more agile, more able to adapt, and much more keen-eyed with their customer-focused strategies. And we’ve seen many of them grow their revenues too.

We hear a lot about the needs of the market. We see consistent client challenges across briefs – and we hear about emerging needs in listening sessions, with a whole range of different companies who are looking for a new or different approach.

We recently asked 135 client side practitioners, from insight, innovation and brand backgrounds to describe the challenges that they face, specifically when it comes to running an online community. Some of the people we talked to were our clients, some were not.

Benjamin Franklin famously said ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ This is our ounce of prevention to help you navigate certain challenges that might not be predicted at briefing stage, but can be solved with proper planning:

1) Underestimating the size of the beast: This was the most frequently and strongly cited cause of frustration for clients. 76% percent of participants felt communities ‘became ineffective when they were under-resourced internally’.

2) Neglecting the art of engagement: Sustaining a relevant and useful community population is definitely achievable but it takes effort. If you don’t design a solid strategy to retain your members, your community will gradually lose its power.

3) Measuring Impact: Online communities can be a big commitment. Our client-side interviewees had five lessons to share to prove the ROI including: defining the community’s strategic purpose, planning impact tracking from the start, resisting the temptation to promote the community on cost-saving alone, building impact-tracking into your business’s system, and making it easy for stakeholders to feed back.

4) Forgetting your community is a brand: When you think about ‘community engagement’ it’s often to focus purely on member engagement – how active the various members of the communities are. However, it is just as important to invest time into building business engagement with the community as well.

Avoiding these pitfalls will give you the critical edge, but it won’t equip you with all the tools you need to effectively manage your online community. If you want to know how else you can ensure insight leads to business change, download the full version of Customer Inside here.

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