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13 Nov. 2019 | Comments (0)

In 2011, we at Leader Networks compiled a list of the Top Online Customer Communities; again in 2014, we produced the Big List of Online Communities. Both of these lists generated interest and buzz, and they stimulated enlightening conversations about what makes an effective online community. Below, we present the 2019 list of top online communities, and anticipate that it, too, will be a useful contribution to the community management space.

Methodology and Score Explanations

We define an online community as an interactive website that a company sets up for customers or partners to support each other or collaborate on topics of mutual interest. After going through the websites of the top 500 U.S. companies by revenues (the “Fortune 500”), we curated and scored those with prominent communities.

For each company that has a community, we gave two scaled scores, with 1 as the lowest and 5 as the highest possible score. The scores are defined based on the following criteria:

“Total Score” is an overall score based on the following points:

  • Ease of Access For example, is there a link to the community on the company’s home page or support page?
  • SEO prominence If we search for “CompanyName and Community” will the community’s listing in the search engine results be clear and prominent?
  • Purpose Is the goal of the community and reason for participation clear?
  • UX, Style & Technology Do the forums still look like the message boards from the year 2000? Are the profiles nothing more than a username with no picture?

“Engagement Score” is a measure of the quality and quantity of interactions between members. High scores are given if there is daily activity in the forums, many responses and views, as well as no dead forums, which would imply bad management.

The following examples illustrate our scoring methodology:

Apple, the largest company on the list, received both the highest possible Overall Community Score and Engagement Index. The support forums are easy to find and navigate, and very active: there are new comments every minute, and the vast majority of questions seem to get responses, which shows both an active community and a successful system for motivating the experts to respond.

Ford’s community initiative is ambitious, as it’s a challenge to get Ford owners to “post pictures… share your story” compared to the more transactional purpose of the Apple forums: “find answers, ask questions.” We gave Ford an Overall Community Score of 4 for inspiring content and topic tags, but only a 2 for the Engagement Index; there are often no responses to the content shared, and there don’t seem to be many active members.

GE, like Apple, has a technical Q&A forum, with questions that often begin with “How do I?” Unlike Apple’s forums, only a few questions are asked each day on GE’s forums. Therefore, GE scored a 4 for a solid user experience, featuring an intuitive “Search or Ask the Community,” but a mediocre 3 for engagement.

Key Findings

Here are some high-level observations from the data:

  1. Technology companies embrace communities
    Technology companies are more likely than other sectors to have communities and they receive relatively high scores. These communities tend to be centered around technical support, and they provide clear business value. (It’s actually a surprise that some tech companies, such as Century Tel and Micron Technologies, don't have their own support forums!)
  2. Only 16 percent of the Fortune 500 host their own communities
    While nearly every company on the Fortune 500 is active on social media, only 78 (16 percent) host customer communities on their own sites.
  3. The top 100 companies of the Fortune 500 are more likely to have communities 
    The largest firms (by revenue) on the Fortune 500 were much more likely to have active online communities than the smaller companies on that list; 32 companies ranked 1-100 on the Fortune 500 have online communities compared to only one corporation from companies ranked 401-500 by revenues.

There are deeper explorations that can be done with the list’s results, including an analysis by industry sector. We plan to elaborate on more specific insights in future articles.

This piece was first published by Leader Networks.

  • About the Author:Vanessa DiMauro

    Vanessa DiMauro

    Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks, is a seasoned advisor and strategist as well as a popular author and keynote speaker. Vanessa works at the intersection of technology and collaboration to deve…

    Full Bio | More from Vanessa DiMauro

     

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