Community Channels (tools)

While chatting with the team here at Google this week, they asked what I consider the tools within the Community space.  Here is a synopsis of what I shared with them:

Ideas/ Ideation Sites
Group of sites that ask for user ideas.  Sites range from open ended give us any idea to specific brainstorm sessions that are focused on topics provided by the company.  Example:
Traditional user boards that allow for questions and answers or dialogues by users posting responses to threaded discussions.    Example:
Blogs (with comments)
Informal information sharing platform that focuses on a publisher of information and users that are able to comment on the content.    Example:
Content Exchanges
Site that allows users to generate content (documents, templates, reports, code, etc) and share it with others in the community via upload and download.  Often includes voting on content quality and comments on the content.    Example:

Webinars and Videos
(with interaction)
Video based content that is offered as training or demonstration.  Generally has some interaction via comment or content rating.    Example:,19,18

Ratings and Reviews

Generally a rating is a 1-5 star (or other simple mechanism) while a review is a more in depth and descriptive review of the product or service.  Example:
3rd Party Sites
This is the participation of the company (or representative of the company) on sites that are used by their target audience.  The goal is to provide a positive brand experience by demonstrating expertise.  Requires company users to add value to the community vs. push selling.    Example:  or
Monitoring and Listening
Using one of many tools ranging from Google alerts to Radian 6 to monitor brand mentions as a way to understand the nature of the discussions.  This might be for research only or can be as a driver for interaction on what you find.    Example products:  radian 6 or Visible technologies or Meltwater Buzz
Closed Communities
These are often used for marketing research and are often paid.  These are communities that are by invitation only and have a “question a week” and require response to get paid/rewarded.
These are subdivisions of the community by commonality.  Might be by product or use.  Will often include several channels within a group.  Combines “people like me”.  Example:
Loyalty Programs
This is a program that tracks and rewards the users for their activity.  Can be “surprise and delight” rewards or an actual points based rewards system.
Asks the community a question, allows a user to vote and then displays the vote percents.  Great tool to drive the “light contributions” that move the watchers into creators.  Example:
Tool that is for document creation.  Allows users to create a document and then edit each other’s documents.  Very flexible collaboration tool.  Can be very labor intensive particularly at the beginning before you gain high end contributors.    Example:

Profiles and Searching Profiles

Profiles allow people to find users like themselves and to follow/interact with those users.  Can be difficult to get the masses to populate the information.  Example:
Event calendars
Displays happenings/events in a calendar that shows “more information” and can allow people to register within the calendar.  Helps to drive continued engagement within the community.  Example:

PLEASE note:  This is not a comprehensive list, only the most common.  Many companies use a hybrid or custom solution to deliver the business value they want.  Please DO NOT base your strategy on a tool, but rather, make sure your strategy leads to the right tool!

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