Managing Communities and Ecosystems with Social Media

Posted: 9/15/2009 by Norma Watenpaugh

Findings from a Survey Conducted by Phoenix Consulting Group, June 2009

Social media is gaining presence within partner ecosystems

These are natural communities and naturally lend themselves to these media.There has been a trend for some time by large vendor companies to position themselves as the hub in a vendor-centric partner ecosystem. Most have built partner directories on their websites so that customers may search and find partners that meet geographic and technical needs. Some have invested heavily to enable partners to find each other, to collaborate and to build more integrated solutions. Social media facilitates this trend. Where vendor companies once invested in proprietary software to create communities, companies may now leverage open social media networks. Public networks are still quite new to facilitating these activities, but there are an emerging host of enterprise social networking platforms that incorporate many aspects of the public networks or integrate with them.

Spontaneous communities are a good indicator of this natural affinity. There are, for example, several Microsoft partner groups on LinkedIn; these are not owned or sponsored by Microsoft. They arose through the initiative of partners who wanted a place to exchange information and insights on how to work effectively with Microsoft.

Example: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=82575&trk=anet_ug_hml

Breadcrumbing was mentioned as a technique to tie these spontaneous and independent communities together. This technique entails leaving a trail of links or breadcrumbs back to the company site. Company employees might address a question or complaint and lead back to the company website by posting links where questions or concerns could be addressed in more detail.Monitoring posts to these sites and proactively responding can be an effective means of fostering loyalty and keeping a pulse on partner sentiment. While there are use cases for this activity among the consumer brands, only a few of the interviewees offered that they were proactively monitoring partner or public sentiment this consistently. Parnerpedia is a free social networking forum intended for partner recruitment, connection and collaboration.

It provides a mechanism to find new partners and to contact them for potential collaboration.Partnerpedia offers a private network option for sale that a vendor can adoptto provide a social networking forum and community management platformspecific to their partner ecosystem.

Incorporating customers into the ecosystem is a powerful trend. Citrix pioneered the concept of a Community Verified network which has eclipsed their traditional partner certification program. rigorous lab testing, products are subjected to the scrutiny of the user community.Users vote or recommend whether these partner products are compatible. Released in October of 2008, the Community Verified community consists of 1,500 products supported by 9,000 verifications as opposed to 800 traditionally certified products. Furthermore, customers can reference the product reviews and they put more stock in the community verified products.

Citrix is on the leading edge of adoption of social media within their partner community. There is extensive use of public social media and extending to these communities strategic partner portals. For example, there are sub communities for Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, NetApp, Oracle, and SAP.

These strategic partner networks integrate many social networking links, RSS feeds for related product and company blogs, YouTube product demos and video tutorials and Twitter streams as well as featuring the community verified products of these partners. It is clear that social media is becoming deeply integrated into these natural communities and becoming inseparable with the business processes in communicating and collaborating within these ecosystems.Contact the author normaw@phoenixcg.com for the full white paper of the research findings.

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