I recently had a QA on Linkedin with a guy who asked:
Community-based websites: the effectiveness of engagement and Interaction? There is still a real opportunity for them to be a leader using a community-based solution. How long will these community-based solutions continue to be effective?
Since about 2005 I've been getting a steadily increasing demand for sites that build, support or promote community. I was surprised by the above question as it was beginning to feel like pretty much every brand out their had gotten on the bus with varying degrees of commitment and success.
So I thought I'd drop my answer in hear for safekeeping:
If you rephrase your question slightly:
"What can my client do with interactive technologies to increase value co-creation and engagement?"
If the creation of social capital and the building of a value co-creation network become core business objectives then the worth of community-based efforts becomes self-evident.
A community can rally around an issue (changing legislation, agreeing safety standards for toys) or a task (designing the Lego Mindstorm, pushing GM towards sustainability) and collectively generate solutions. The alternative is a network of business development types driving around the country in cars. I gotta say, I like the website option better.
Please take note of Stephen's point about commitment. A thriving community does require investment in capital, in time, in risk management. Make sure you factor these issues into your planing.
> B to B is typically not a great area for community
I just wanted to add a comment about Tom's point above.
I have recently implemented "group pages" that allow insurance advisers to ask each other questions in a private, branded area. The service is hosted by the underwriting insurance company.
Here's what the value-map looks like:
1 - Each advisor builds her knowledge and feels more competent as a result of participating (similar to what we are doing here)
2 - The system reduces the number of calls to the underwriters which means they get more done in a day (their days become more valuable)
Created social capital:
The partner advisers deepen their engagement with the underwriting company. The experience of dealing with this company as opposed to one that doesn't provide this service is such that over time the business relationship is stronger (ie sales increase)
It's always worth trying to quantify this value when deciding what to build.
I'm developing a methodology to map the co-creation of value by customers onto the traditional human-centred design assets we already use. I'm not sure where that's going to end up. Should I start another agency? (still a little sobered after the Pumpernickle experience) or do i just use this as a consultant, bringing the techniques to my day-to-day work?
In the meantime, feel free to ring me on 07515 661655 if you're a product owner and are trying to understand how value co-creation can impact your business requirement choices.