Just today, Chicago based ComBlu, a firm specializing in social business and engagement released the “2011 State of Online Branded Communities” study (here is the 2009 and 2010 report). The report, which looks at online community performance, member engagement and social media integration of top brands in the US, shows significant progress in social engagement and community building, but still an alarming lack of adoption of industry best practices.
The study revealed that the number of organizations that implement a more cohesive and integrated approach to community engagement continued to climb over the past year. In 2011, 41% of brands surveyed are using a cohesive approach, versus 33% in 2010 and 20% in 2009. More importantly, brands are utilizing multiple pillars of engagement within the same community – community feedback, customer support and customer advocacy.
Of the 16 industries in the study, the Gaming and Telecommunications industries were the two highest scoring this year, followed closely by Technology and Consumer Electronics. The Retail and Travel and Hospitality industries tied for the most improved, each jumping nine points in average score.
The big leads in adopting industry best practices in community engagement that occurred between 2009 and 2010 did not occur again in 2011. While there was some improvement, most notably in the established high performing industries – there continues to be some surprising missed opportunities. Interestingly, top performers in this year’s study are brands that best utilize their customer advocates.
For example, in 2010 the presence of a community manager jumped 19%, while in 2011 lost a few points and fell from 51 to 48%. An active community manager serves as the “face” of the brand and often serves as the community advocate back to the business.
One of the biggest missed opportunities again this year is in the use of advocates within branded communities, with a mere 20% adoption rate. The advocates represent the “voice of the customer,” and contribute content, facilitate recruitment and often “indirectly” sell the products via organic conversations within their social graph.
The study also reveals:
- Little mobile integration
- Lack of recommendation engines
- Low adoption of rewards and recognition programs