I've been enjoying reading some of the accounts of the Futures of Entertainment Conference at MIT a couple weeks back. Sam Ford did some terrific blogging on behalf of one of the sponsors, the Convergence Culture Consortium, as did some other bloggers he links to, so that pretty complete accounts of the sessions are online.
The sessions I found particularly interesting (and relevant to online communities) are:
Not the Real World Anymore (Virtual Worlds)
In the Internet age, every company is a media company, in that we all create experiences on the web that we hope will inform, engage and motivate our customers. Some of what entertainment companies are facing today will confront companies in other industries in the years to come. Take a look. Message Edited by JoeCo on 11-28-2006 10:13 PM
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Sorry - I couldn't resist. Mike Butcher over at TechCrunch reviews recent developments in mobile social software (MoSoSo) in the UK and Europe. Not there yet, he concludes. But what will it take to succeed? Says Mike:
But where all of these new services will have to deliver is in the area of the user experience. We have all been beaten over the head by talk of the personalisation and customisation of the web for years. Well, guess what? The mobile is the most personal space of all. Get that wrong and you can really screw up. Look at the hoo-ha surrounding the Crazy Frog debacle.
If social networking providers hope to have any kind of success in the mobile environment they are going to have to make the experience utterly easy, beautiful and unobtrusive to the users. Sending them adverts is probably not going to cut it. Message Edited by JoeCo on 11-28-2006 10:16 PM
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Interesting: Chloe Stromberg and Charlene Li at Forrester Research are looking at return on investment from public-facing corporate blogs (via Cybersoc). The results won't be out til the end of the year, but the analysts share their approach in an article in Computerworld:
We will have interviewed nine Fortune 1,000 firms that have external blogs. These include a mix of some traditional consumer-facing firms, some technology companies and some traditional B2B firms. We're using Forrester's Total Economic Impact model to help measure the impact of technology investments, and we have done interviews with five thought leaders -- analysts, consultants and strategists in the blogging space.
Li also talks about another report she's working on related to social networks:
I'm working on a report right now that looks at how companies can create their own social networks or tap into them. We're where we are with social networks now where we were with blogging two years ago.
She's right about where we're at with social networks today. The value of forums has been abundantly demonstrated. Blogs are getting there too. But I think we're all still looking for those blue-chip examples of companies who have successfully deployed pure social network applications for their customers, partners, or employees. Message Edited by JoeCo on 12-26-2006 09:05 PM
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There's an Interesting piece by René Algesheimer and Paul M. Dholakia in the November issue of Harvard Business Review on research the have conducted at eBay in Germany. I've seen internal numbers like this for many years, but there's been very little empirical research to date to back up experience in the field.
Lurkers and community enthusiasts bid twice as often as members of the control group [i.e., non-community members], won up to 25% more auctions, paid final prices that were as much as 24% higher, and spent up to 54% more money (in total). Enthusiasts listed up to four times as many items on eBay and earned up to six times as much in monthly sales revenues as the control users. The findings on first-time sellers were even more impressive: Compared with the controls, almost ten times as many lurkers (56.1%) and enthusiasts (54.1%) started selling on eBay after they joined and participated in customer communities. The increased buying and selling activity of enthusiasts and lurkers generated approximately 56% more in sales during the year that our experiment ran than in the previous one. With a take rate (the fraction of sales that eBay earns as revenue) of 10.3% and a gross margin of 82%, eBay earned several million dollars in profit from the increased trading behavior of the community participants in the experiment.
I'm looking forward to seeing the full results. Thanks to Jim Cashel for passing this link along. Message Edited by JoeCo on 11-21-2006 09:26 PM
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Over the past month, a number of people have chimed in on Jakob Nielsen's October 9 AlertBox on the "90-9-1 rule" for participation in social networks and online communities. If you missed Nielson's piece, he posits that in any community, 90% of participants lurk, 9% are occasional participants, 1% contribute most of the content. There's not much new in Nielsen's piece, or in the commentary around it -- maybe because 90-9-1 is just another way of talking about what has elsewhere been described as the the power law of participation, or the long tail, or even the Pareto principle. The fact of unequal participation isn't really debatable, though why it is, what it means, how we should feel about it, and what we should do about it are all worth thinking about. (I'll discuss this in the context of customer communities, although the same lessons apply to employees, partners, associates, colleagues, etc.) Why is it? W e often hear about unequal participation in the context of online applications, but it's a fact of life for any kind of social organization. You know this if you've ever volunteered, or served on a committee, or been part of any group that sets out to accomplish something. Some people do more work than others. It's just that online, it's more noticeable and more measureable. What does it mean? It means, first of all, that you should set reasonable expectations for participation from the get-go. Among other things, i f you accept 90-9-1, y ou can look at your target population and tell if y ou have sufficient scale to succeed . (If you're planning to get started with a group of only 200 users, for example, you're flirting with failure.) What it does not mean, by the way, is that participants are unrepresentative of your customers as a whole. I had the chance to test this a couple years ago, when I conducted a series of focus groups for a US Fortune 500 company. We had complete purchase history on each participant, and conducted a survey to get demographic and other data so we could compare across other dimensions too. The results confirmed my own experience over many years: community participants were as diverse as customers in general, in terms of demographics, preferences, and profitability, and as a group were almost identical to the customer population as a whole. (On the other hand, when we broaden our scope to look at all community members, contributors and non-contributors included, we find that they are more loyal, more profitable, and buy more than the average customer. But this is another subject, which I've been writing about for a number of years.) How should we feel about it? The same way we feel about gravity -- it's inconvenient sometimes, handy at other times ... and nothing that we can effectively alter. But here's some consolation: unequal participation is less unequal than it may appear. The reason? The composition of the active 10% changes over time. Today's participants and non-participants go through cycles of high activity, low activity, and no activity as their interest, time, and other factors allow. (J. P. Rangaswami makes this same point, while reminding us of his own earlier and excellent attempt at a 90-9-1-style breakdown.) What should we do about it? Nielsen is right-on here, stressing the importance of making participation easy and of recognizing and rewarding good contributions via effective reputation systems. As DrumsNWhistles notes, these principles are evident in Web 2.0 apps like Digg and Flickr. As well, I would add, in Lithium's products, and soon on any application that wants to thrive on the next-generation Web. Message Edited by JoeC on 11-24-2008 09:25 AM
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