Update from Social Media Today:
The Internets have been all abuzz over a study of more than 100 business-owned online communities. The buzz comes from the fact that a Wall Street Journal blog proclaimed that "most online communities fail... despite the fact that close to 60% of these businesses have spent over $1 million on their community projects." (Turns out it was a typo, only 6% spent that much. Oops.)
But bloggers published on Social Media Today and its sister site, The Customer Collective, pointed out that the bigger mistake may have been the statement that "most online communities fail." Francois Gossieaux of Beeline Labs -- one of the authors of the study, and a contributor to TCC -- said "our study did not show that." He continued, "But yes, many communities do fail -- either because nobody comes (or they come once and then never come again), or because they fail to move the needle for companies and therefore do not receive the executive attention they deserve."
I've just added a presentation we gave on this subject... it's titled "Why Communities Plateau" rather than fail, but the principles remain the same. It's in the document section. Click here to access directly. (Ignore the marketing propaganda...comes with the territory!)
The main reasons we see communities fail are:
- Loss of centralized control - Too many cooks in the kitchen
- Focused on technology rather than behavior
- Stale, boring, and non-existent outreach
- Outdated technology
There's a bit of discussion on another topic here regarding the necessity or otherwise of a community manager. My point there was you can't legislate community, and sometimes the concept of social software just doesn't fit an organisation for some reason(s). That seems to be supported by Gossieaux's comments. I don't think we should be surprised that some communities wither on the vine (actually 6% "failure rate" sounds pretty good to me) - like all epiphanies, the subjects have to participate in their own redemption - we can't do it for them!