As someone that has been in the business of “community” for the last 10 years (since I was advocating this at Andersen with their clients), I’m constantly surprised with how fast the “community” market is changing. Just two short years ago, I remember attending one holiday party after another where guests asked me what I did for a living. The blank look on everyone’s face when I told them I ran a “community” company said it all. So you’ll forgive me if I started to have my doubts as to whether community would ever make its way into the business arena.
Today, you can’t open The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek or BusinessWeek without reading an article about social networks or community and how they are impacting business. The buzz around consumer generated content and companies like YouTube and MySpace, has helped drive this media frenzy. What excites me is the fact that the best is yet to come as leading companies like Procter &Gamble and Eli Lilly leverage their customer communities to drive product innovation, improve customer self-service and reduce marketing and sales costs. Even more exciting is that I find myself explaining what community is less and less – in fact, many of the CMOs I speak to tell me that their boards have mandated that they put customer communities on their 2007 roadmap.
In spite of all of the media hoopla and the adoption of customer communities by Fortune 500 companies, the moment I knew that community had truly arrived was during my ride into work the other day when I heard a radio advertisement for a glass company – JNPhilips – that was promoting its customer community. I’m not sure what conversations take place in a peer network that’s focused on “windshield replacements,” but if the market has come this far, shame on me for having the slightest doubt about community’s place in the business world. Now all we have to do is execute. – Barry 11/14/06