Communities have come a long way from just being a group of people trying to get together and talking on random stuff. With creation of dedicated roles like community manager and advent of web 2.0 technologies, communities have transformed into a collective source of value for every member. A community can be a solution provider, a guide, a knowledge base and an informal repository of conventional experience.
What people learn through their experience is rarely documented and always learnt by the word of mouth. Communities provide a sustainable channel to process and consume the invaluable experiential learning which might reside in an experienced brain and brings it to all members. Imagine a group of sellers from across the world collaborating on sales trend in their local markets influenced by the global paradigm. How much value every seller will gain sitting in his/her corner of the world yet having access to overall collective and mutual intelligence.
This value is appreciated at an individual level by every member of the community.
As Randy MacDonald, (Senior VP - Human Resources, IBM) emphasizes in his post, Embracing Social Media - that the best financially performing corporations are 57 percent more likely to use collaborative and social-networking tools to help global teams work together. He opines that collaboration is the most powerful and underutilized use of social media. He stresses that by tapping the intelligence of the people who work for us -- who collectively know more than any executive team -- companies can get surprising solutions to some of their biggest challenges, such as how to apply innovations that didn't pan out to a new use. Or which new markets the company should pursue.
Overall, any community should be centered on value creation -for the organization and the members or both. The common interest should result in value that can be realized.
The value of the community is ideally based on the following threads:
- Increase profits: More sales, more subscriptions, bigger database etc.
- Cut Costs: Less emails, fewer ad campaigns, word of mouth publicity etc.
- Nonprofit goals: Skill development, unique congregation, leaders develop leaders, collaboration, informal and social learning
- No goals: These types of communities are very rare as members' goals supersede common interest.
A community manager needs to fathom what the objective of the community is and hence drive the value and also make relevant information available to the stakeholders. Stakeholders do tend to confuse between the first two types and the third one.
Organizations that learn and understand the power of communities and translate it into successful knowledge gamut will be the architects of the future - not only they will be more successful, but they will serve as a learning enabler.