Does anyone have any good case studies or white papers they can point to that will help show the advantages of having an open community vs a closed one with restricted content?
I know there are legit reasons behind restrictions like communities based on paid memberships and gating information that is truly sensitive. On the other hand, I think there are several fears pushing companies towards restricted content that have been well refuted like:
- competitors – If they really want to get in your community they will find a way. If they really want to get your documentation, they already have it.
- sensitive documents – In my experience, these are not truly “sensitive” meaning they do not contain design schematics or other intellectual property. They simply help a customer configure, use, and troubleshoot a product. Also, if you just google the document you are looking to protect it is not uncommon to find someone else already posted it somewhere outside of your control.
- slander/upset customers – As long as you are honest, responsible, and reasonable this is a non-issue, not to mention these posts typically have really low views compared to all other content. Some good guidance is found here: Conflict and crisis management. Don’t forget the community typically comes to your defense too.
- spam – There are several tools and configuration options to circumvent this.
In my past life we had one company division with open content in the community and the other with restrictions and had measured a 12X difference in activity. Not being able to find things, or having to be approved for access to locked down spaces was a constant complaint in the Feedback section and in surveys for all the restricted content. It was clear that we had a higher customer satisfaction rating for users in the open content areas. One other important point is with open content external search engines can find it and ultimately become your biggest traffic source.
There is a balance between protecting your interests with restrictions and making things unnecessarily difficult for customers, who won’t come back if they have a bad first experience. Has anyone else out there fought this battle and won? What tactics and discussion points helped the most?