Why do people join B2B communities?

I have spent the last couple of weeks in Australia as part of my role in Vision Critical University visiting a number of clients, and several of them have, or are in the process of, creating B2B insight communities. One of the great things about this sort of concentrated activity is that it encourages examination of the key issues, and this time that has included the question ‘why do people join online insight communities?’.

I think the key point that companies need to remember, when designing, creating and managing insight communities, is that most people only join a B2B community because they think there is something in it for them and/or their organization. Further, they only stay engaged if they believe they are actually gaining a benefit.

The benefits from being a member of a B2B community can be summarised as:

  1. Special access, including networking with others in the field.
  2. Growing the business through learning more
  3. Growing the business by shaping the future
  4. Reducing costs through learning more
  5. Reducing costs by shaping the future

A successful community does not need to offer all of these, but it needs to offer something. At the stage the community is created the prospective members need to have the benefits outlined to them, along with the scale of the commitment expected.

The community also needs to be engaging, but in the case of a B2B community, engagement is a necessary but not sufficient element.

As the community develops, the members will assess it on whether it delivers against its promises. Members will assess whether they have learned useful things (from the process, form each other, and from the client), whether they feel they have been listened to, and to what extent their feedback has shaped what the organisation does.

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