In "Why Most Online Communities Fail," the Wall Street Journal cites some very useful Deloitte research on businesses who launch their own online communities -- what we and others call "White-label Social Networks."
The Deloitte study found a low success rate, owing the usual culprits: over-emphasis on technology, lack of leadership and experience, and poor or inadequate metrics.
In our own research for the Enterprise Social Software Report, we found some other, likely related trends:
- That technology companies with technically-oriented customers generally fared better at generating online communities, and pre-dominate among vendor case studies
- That non-technology companies seem to have to prime the pump with a lot of their own content
- That the purpose of the community matters a lot (e.g., peer tech support vs. collaboration vs. commentary) and -- here's the kicker -- most vendor offerings specialize in one at the expense of others (consult the report for details)
- That vendors are struggling with analytics in step with their customers
We also found that there are several different ways to build, foster, and take advantage of communities, but (as Deloitte observes), each approach takes active care and feeding. Budget your schedule and resources accordingly.