Nearly two-thirds (65%) of organizations engage in online communities operated by companies that sell them computer hardware, software and services**. That means you need to pay attention to your communities. And this report is a great place to start.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has the best community of all? To find out, we evaluated the online community sites operated by 20 companies on the 2011 siteIQ eBusiness Index. We looked at all types of communities. Support, Idea.Thought leadership. Business networks.
Since opinions are good — but facts are better — we conducted these evaluations using our Online Communities Benchmark which is packed full of the 98 types of navigation, content, features, & capabilities you need to compete with the best communities on the IT Web.
Of course, great communities are much more than the sum of their parts. To see how well these sites put their pieces together, we conducted a second usability-centered review that measures how these communities achieve visitor and member objectives.
Then we crunched the numbers — ranked & rated each community — created cool graphs to tell the story — and put it all in this report.
The Big Picture
Usability scores skyrocketed this year – and six communities made the Good Practice roster: Cisco.com, Intel.com, Juniper.net, Symantec.com, Dell.com, and Brocade.com. SAP.com’s communities just missed the mark, but we still think they deserve an honorable mention.
Usability gainers & losers are the Who’s Who of the business.
On the gainer front, SAS.com and the IBM Software Group finally got their community mojos going (scored goose eggs last year) — but still ended up in 13th and 15th place. Meanwhile, CA.com saw a nice bump in its usability points – but competitors did a better job, which landed it in 17th place.
On the loser front, both HP.com and Microsoft’s usability dropped a tad. That didn’t make any difference to HP.com’s #9 ranking. Microsoft, on the other hand, slid from 14th to 16th place (it’s a rough ranking but somebody’s got to be there).
On a features & capabilities basis, we have good news and bad news.
On the good news front — if your community is reviewed in this report, you probably want to schedule a victory lap. Half of the communities aced most of the 98 types of content on the benchmark and (with the exception of Insight and CDW – not even close and no cigar) everyone else performs at a competitive level.
That leaves the bad news for teams planning their first foray into communities – or need to make their current communities more than digital placeholders. Simply put, the bar is already high – and there’s not much time to play catch up. (On the other hand, the master plan in this report can show you how).
** 207 organizations surveyed in 2010 by the research firm ITSMA in 2010. Data referenced in the article Customer Intimacy on Steroids: Why B2B Firms Need Online Communities by Vanessa DiMauro and Robert Buday.
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Class: Competitive Review and Master Plan
Websites Profiled: All sites on eBusiness Index