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Jeremiah Owyang (Sr. Analyst at Forrester) has a great post on his blog about online community best practices. He also discusses some of the stages that some of the most successful online communities go through. Jeremiah is a senior analyst at Forrester Research and focuses on social computing.

The executive summary (also found on his blog) is pasted below:

“An online community is an interactive group of people joined together by a common interest. It’s also one of the most powerful tools a marketer can deploy for customer retention, word of mouth, and customer insight. To host a successful community, think of it as you would product development: Start by focusing on objectives, chart a road map, assemble the right team, and plan to be flexible. Then build your success by launching the community with the backing of your most enthusiastic customers and staying engaged as the community grows. Above all, remember that control is in the hands of the members, so put their needs first, build trust, and become an active part of the community.”

The stages that these communities go through, in order are:

Online Community Strategy

  • Brainstorming
  • Strategy
  • Research
  • Launch
  • Kick-Start
  • Growth
  • Ongoing Management
  • Customer communication and feedback
  • Continual Improvement

I would have added brainstorming before strategy and would have also included a section for customer communication and feedback before continual improvements (listed above in bold). The report is a hefty $379 and can be found here. But before you go ahead and dish out the money, you may want to consider if this chart makes any logical sense.

In the words of Nick O’ Neil, “Do social networks follow the traditional business cycle?” He makes a valid argument, once the company reaches the maturity stage, why would it keep on growing?

The main Forrester site along with all of their paid and free resources can be found here, I highly recommend that everyone visit the site.