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Why Community, why forums? – revisited

September 3, 2009

About two and a half years ago, I was working through the business case to launch a community and I wrote about why I thought forums were a potentially high value opportunity for an enterprise to invest in.  At the time, I was focused more on the human side of the equation, and the interpersonal dynamics.    These are still the right things at the core of the community, but what do you do with it once you have it?   What business objectives are met by the community?    

Looking at the results from MyFICO, shared in a guest blog post by Barry Paperno, community manager of MyFICO, we find a number of ways in which a forum can be harnessed to deliver tangible benefits.  Quoting some of his results…

“Lowering support call volume and length: The community contributed significantly to overall customer service inquiries declining over the last year by 1% (vs. 23% growth the year prior). myFICO also directs about 10% of callers to the community for more detailed user-to-user help, helping to decrease myFICO’s average support call length.

Attracting new customers:Community URLs have grown to account for 39% of all myFICO.com traffic from search engines, significantly helping FICO achieve its Web marketing goals.

Driving sales: The community helps FICO achieve its sales goals in two ways –  the average spend of a customer jumps 66% after they join the myFICO community, and  13% of all myFICO online sales involve viewing a community page.

Enhancing the customer experience: Facilitating user access to helpful educational content and advice helps myFICO deliver a satisfying customer experience, a key component of the company’s strategy to attract new customers and enhance the loyalty of existing customers.”

In challenging economic times, where spending on social media can be scrutinized or completely cut by those who think it unnecessary window dressing, it is important to keep discussion focused on what your social programs are delivering.   Attract new clients, increase sales conversion rate and average spend, and lower support costs.  Three very tangible, very measurable benefits.

I remain more convinced that a well designed, well implemented and operated community is a strategic priority for investment because it builds equity over time.   I see so many companies engage in various social media campaigns in which  sizable investments are made for a set interval of time to create a site, contest or promotion, with a set of  required customer activities.   At the end of the campaign, the party is over, the lights are turned off and what is there to show for it?   Do customers stick around, do they convert to the brand and continue to provide tangible and ongoing benefit?   What is that ongoing benefit and how is it  measured and tracked?  

MyFICO and other successful communities are adept at building momentum, quantifying and tracking the growth in their equity, investment, and ultimately dividends on that investment over time.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2009 7:46 pm

    Hey

    So the other forum you visit is the one belonging to lithosphere!hmmm….cool!

  2. September 10, 2009 9:48 pm

    Vijay,

    Yes, the lithosphere is Lithium’s community about community – a rather audacious undertaking to engage with your customers, on your product and have opend discussion and demonstration about how well that product works (and where it may need to be improved).
    http://lithosphere.lithium.com/

    Being a user there, rather than an admin or mod has afforded me a lot of first hand experience working from the bottom up in a community.

    I visit a number of other communities related both to personal interest, and for the utility of finding answers and solutions.

    Mark

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