There are many reasons why an organization might create an online community. They might notice competitors poaching their customers and decide to build a close-knit community for their customers. They might notice employees duplicating work and create an internal community to share information. They might want to reduce their customer service costs.
Very often, communities are created without a specific target to hit. Sometimes, they are created by accident (taking over a fan community) or by an employee who has since departed (yet the community survives). Occasionally, they are created based upon the immediate whim of the CEO.
The benefits of an online community vary by the type of community. ‘Online community’ is an umbrella term describing a broad range of approaches to achieve a range of goals. The common element within them is using member to member interaction to achieve the organization’s objectives.
‘Online community’ is an umbrella term describing a broad range of approaches to achieve a range of goals
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These objectives might be directly related to revenue (e.g. increasing spending from existing customers) or they might be one layer removed (e.g. improving net promoter score). In this chapter, we have reviewed each of these. This is not a comprehensive list, but an attempt to tackle the most common benefits.
It is not easy to classify benefits as different terminology is often used to describe the same objectives. Where possible, we’ve tried to be clear about the most common terms used, what they mean, and how they relate to each other. The structure reflects the broad goals of the organization.