Based on my inquiry load this year, I would agree that this space is still quite active:
2009 Tribalization of Business Study
Publish date: Monday, October 05, 2009
Deloitte LLP’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) practice has recently released the results of the 2009 Tribalization of Business Study, which evaluates the perceived potential of online communities* and identifies how enterprises believe they may better leverage them. Conducted in conjunction with Beeline Labs and the Society for New Communications Research, this second edition of the Tribalization of Business Study measured the responses of more than 400 companies including Fortune 100 organizations which have created and maintain online communities today.
Survey results indicate that while enterprises are effectively using online tools to engage with customers, partners, and employees for brand discussion and idea generation, organizations are continuing to struggle with harnessing social media’s full potential. Firms of Deloitte LLP are meeting with clients to share these insights and strategize on how they can help their businesses use these potent business tools.
Market Shows Signs of Maturation
Several data points indicate continued maturation of the enterprise's use of communities and social media. For instance, this year's survey pointed to an evolution in the way in which companies are tracking and engaging with both active and inactive members. While the number of active users and their level of participation have been considered the top measures of success for an online community, this year survey respondents are paying close attention to non-active users or "lurkers" -- people who observe the community, but don't participate in the discussion. More than 32 percent of respondents are capturing data on how these individuals derive value from the community.
Additionally, 20 percent of survey respondents have set up formal "ambassador" programs, which give outsiders preferential treatment in return for being more active in the community. Almost 40 percent of the survey respondents also indicated that more full-time people are being deployed to manage the communities.
"While we are seeing signs of maturation in this year's study, there are still plenty of companies who do not realize the power of communities, and others who have not yet figured out the proper approach for leveraging communities as part of their business," said Francois Gossieaux, partner with Beeline Labs and a senior fellow with the Society of New Communications Research. "Businesses are truly become social again, and companies should look to leverage the collective wisdom of their employees, customers and partners in order to innovate faster, reduce costs, and bolster their bottom lines."
Rethinking Community Success
According to the survey, the biggest obstacles to creating a successful community -- getting people to join (24 percent), stay engaged (30 percent) and keep returning (21 percent) -- can be easily remedied through partnering and new management practices. The study indicates that very few companies, however, are taking the steps necessary to overcome these challenges.
While 58 percent of respondents evaluated partnering with existing communities, complementary vendors, or end users when developing their community, 55 percent of the companies that evaluated a partnership did not actually partner.
Furthermore, the survey also revealed significant gaps between community goals (such as generating word of mouth, customer loyalty and brand awareness) and how success is being measured. The top two analytics for measuring success are the number of active users (34 percent) and how often people post/comment (32 percent), indicating that participation is still considered to be the biggest measure of success. Potentially more useful analytics, however, such as increase in search engine rank and citations/links on other sites, are less often utilized, highlighting a mismatch between the desired outcome and how that outcome is measured.