Enterprises are investing heavily in online communities in the face of the recession, a new survey says. According to the "2009 Tribalization of Business Survey," 94 percent of respondents stated that they plan to continue their online community investments, despite other signifiers that these companies are still struggling with social media. This study was conducted by Deloitte, Beeline Labs and the Society for New Communications Research, and surveyed more than 400 companies, including Fortune 100 organizations.
The survey also found the following:
- A majority of surveyed companies agreed that increasing word-of-mouth (38 percent), customer loyalty (34 percent) and brand awareness (30 percent) continue to be the top business objectives of online communities
- Idea generation (29 percent) and improved customer support quality (23 percent) come second
- Marketing continues to be the main driver of online communities, which unfortunately results in a significant gap between community goals and organizations' capability to fully leverage these communities on an enterprise wide basis
- More than 32 percent said they are paying closer attention to community value derived by "lurkers"
- Another 20 percent of survey respondents have set up ambassador programs to entice outsiders to participate in the community
- Near 40 percent said that more jobs are being created to manage such communities
Finally, the study unveiled that goals and measurement of online communities may not be well aligned, reporting that the two top most-used metrics for determining success are the number of active users and how often people post or comment. If goals are indeed as stated, more useful analytics such as increase in search engine rank or citations and links should be higher priority, the report states.
This study echoes a recent research report published by analyst firm IDC, which forecasts strong growth in the online community market despite the recession. The firm predicts that the U.S. online community software market will grow from $278.4 million last year to $1.6 billion in 2013, at a CAGR of 41.8%.