At ComBlu, the dog days of summer means that we are hard at work on our annual research on the State of Online Branded Communities. We are in year four of our study that closely examines the communities and social marketing programs of more than 90 companies – all of which are major brands–across 15 industries. When it is all said and done, we will have joined and evaluated upwards of 250 distinct communities and evaluated them on the use of 30+ community best practices.
Member experience is the main focus of the study. Our research enables us to gain firsthand experience about how brands are using “community” to engage and interact with their members. We use that knowledge to assess brands’ effectiveness in:
· Providing a meaningful experience for members
· Integrating their brand strategies across multiple communities and social media
· Applying best practices to strengthen customer engagement
We’re making great strides in completing our research and thought this was the perfect time to share some of things were looking for in this year’s study:
· Lifecycle engagement. A number of industries, retail and packaged goods most notably, have a great opportunity to engage around consumers’ lifecycles and lifestyles. Many brands make consumers work too hard to put it all together when shopping for an entire outfit or graduating from one product to the next as their child grows up. This year we’re looking for brands to provide a cohesive end-to-end experience that employs community assets that fully engage a consumer and deepen overall brand affinity.
· Custom content, please! While many brands still heavily rely on a ‘push’ content model, we are looking for content customization practices to become more prevalent and sophisticated. “Content recommendation engines” are another emerging practice we are watching that will go a long way toward providing a more meaningful experience for members.
· Facebook Migration? Another interesting trend is the strategic use of Facebook as a community platform. This means brands have developed a platform rich and mature that fosters true dialogue and interaction and takes the Facebook experience well beyond the tried and true.
· Mobile, mobile, mobile… Mobile has become a standard community feature as brands continue to use apps to extend the member experience to consumers on the go. What we are looking for this year is brands that are using mobile apps that have integrated true community functionality. There are some definite bright spots to highlight this year.
Those are just a few high level trends we are tracking this year. The full report will be released in the fall. We’ll keep you posted here for dates of preview webinars. Check back, and feel free to shoot me thoughts on any trends you have witnessed in community throughout the course of the year!
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