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A well-managed online community can be a business advantage. 

That's not just something I dreamed up, it's the conclusion of a study entitled, "What Creates Advantage in the 'Social Era'?" In this 2015 study, authors Tim Kastelle, Nilofer Merchant, and Martie Verreynne set out to discover what will provide an advantage to businesses in the era of the Internet.

In previous eras, simply getting your strategy right created an advantage. In the Social Era, though, honing your strategy right only moves you from the ‘No Advantage’ region of the map into the first or second row. What causes the big jump in performance, that extra 30% increase or more, is combining community (ideas of many) and purpose (yet aligned to your mission). That’s the recipe for the giant leap to the top of the map.

Click to read the full study: What Creates Advantage in the 'Social Era?'

The research reviews how, over time, what was once necessary to gain advantage becomes "table stakes." It's no longer enough to have the lowest price, best product, or access to capital. It's not enough to have a unique niche. Those things are just necessary to survive. In order to thrive, businesses must figure out how community can be applied to their unique strategy.

Technological change has made collaboration a necessary part of economic production. And those businesses that can apply collaboration thoughtfully will gain advantage.

Key Takeaways for your Community

  • Treat your customers and/or employees as co-creators of value within your organization, not just value extractors
  • Celebrate unique points of view and outside ideas
  • Clarify your business mission, and then use that as a controlling force for your community strategy
  • Ensure that your community guidelines are transparent
  • Recognize that when your community invests in an idea, it co-owns its success

Can you think of other ways you can weave purpose into your community strategy? 

Full research citation: 

What Creates Advantage in the “Social Era”?  
Tim Kastelle, Nilofer Merchant, Martie-Louise Verreynne
Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization Summer-Fall 2015, Vol. 10, No. 3-4, Pages 81-91

Featured image via Flickr CC: Suvodeb Banerjee

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