The Community Roundtable Finds Investments in Online Community Paying off in 6th Annual State of Community Management Report

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The State of Community Management 2015 research finds that organizations that make strategic investments in communities and community management are seeing results.

report cover - State of Community Management

The State of Community Management 2015, released June 4 by The Community Roundtable

There are many encouraging signs that community management is maturing – the vast majority of communities now have approved strategies and an increasing number can measure value and ROI.

Organizations that make strategic investments in online communities and community management have higher engagement rates and are more likely to realize community value. That's the overall conclusion of The State of Community Management 2015 from The Community Roundtable. The sixth edition of the annual report series provides a snapshot of the progress and changes in community management approaches and highlights emerging standards. This year, TheCR analyzed data from more than 200 communities representing a broad range of community sizes and sectors to measure community maturity and its relationship to member engagement and community value.

The report release today will be followed by a launch webinar on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 2 p.m. ET with Rachel Happe and Jim Storer, co-founders of The Community Roundtable. The webinar will be hosted by Higher Logic – registration is now open at higherlogic.com.

**Download the full report at communityroundtable.com**

The State of Community Management 2015 is built on The Community Roundtable’s Community Maturity Model framework. It segments the state of maturity of online communities across the eight key competencies and in four stages, and provides organizations with actionable and specific information to use in their planning.

The research finds an increasing percentage of community programs have approved community strategies and resourced roadmaps, but that community management is still an emerging discipline. Of the more than 200 communities to complete the survey, just one percent scored in Stage 4, “Networked”, and more than three-fourths of the communities surveyed ranked in Stages 1 and 2 of development.

“There are many encouraging signs that community management is maturing – the vast majority of communities now have approved strategies and an increasing number can measure value and ROI. However, communities are complex mechanisms and cannot be turned on by a flip of the switch, so it is not surprising that few communities have in place the strategy, operations and tactics to be fully networked and integrated into their organizations,” said Rachel Happe, Principal and Co-Founder of The Community Roundtable.

The research also compared the highest-scoring 20% of respondents on the survey (the “Best-in-Class communities”) with the average and found significant correlations between some community practices and higher engagement rates and ability to measure value, which point the way to those practices that have higher effectiveness.

*Key findings from the 2015 research*

Strategy: Community-minded organizations must invest in people and systems, not just platforms

While many organizations realize the importance of community management, too many still take only a technology centric or tactical view of online communities. Past research has emphasized that community managers are important and this year’s research provided more insight. By investing in community management resources the best-in-class communities can focus not just on the tactical aspects of community management but they can also in invest in the strategic planning, operational systems and governance structures that sustain and reinforce tactical engagement practices. By doing so, they extend the impact of the community by integrating it into core operational practices of the organization.

Operations: Community advocacy programs are more than just a checkbox

Advocacy is a hot topic but what the research found is that there is a big difference in results between a basic advocacy program and a multi-faceted advocacy program that addresses multiple types of community leaders. Basic advocacy programs – those that provide a title and a badge to one group of leaders – provide little impact in engagement rates. However, multi-tiered advocacy programs that provide more targeted benefits for different groups within the community correlated with higher engagement rates and a strong ability to calculate community value.

Tactics: Quick wins exist to improve community engagement

While making significant changes to community strategy or operational programs requires significant investment, there are many ways for communities at all levels to improve engagement through tactics. The research found significant correlations between communities that clearly define and state the value of the community, build strong welcome processes and invest in professional development for community managers, and those communities with greater and higher quality participation.

*The 90-9-1 rule of community participation confirmed dead*

The research again confirms that the 90-9-1 rule, which suggests that just 10 percent of community members play active roles in their online communities while 90 percent “lurk” has been subsumed by evidence that community members are far more active. The research found that on average, nearly half of active community members engage, rather than simply listen, in both internal and external communities – and about 1 in 4 create or collaborate on content.

“The best communities are reaching far beyond tactics that generate ‘empty engagement’ and give members many opportunities to engage with the organization in deep and meaningful ways,” said Happe. “That type of engagement can encourage and reward behavior changes and scale the community program in ways that provide significant benefits for both members and the entire organization.”

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The Community Roundtable was established in 2009 as a professional development network for community, social media and social business professionals, providing an extensive array of training, tools, research and advisory services to members and enterprise customers. TheCR Network gives members access to exclusive connections, events, training and resources, as well as immediate support from TheCR and peers from over 100 organizations in community and social business roles. Customers worldwide have adopted TheCR’s Community Maturity Model as a framework with which to start, build and grow communities, and the annual State of Community Management provides in-depth analysis of the growth and maturation of community management.

Our clients come from more than 100 organizations, including SAP, Aetna, IEEE, H&R Block, Walgreens and CA Technologies. To learn more about TheCR Network, advisory services, tools and research, visit http://www.communityroundtable.com or follow us on Twitter at @TheCR.

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Ted McEnroe
The Community Roundtable
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