Online Communities Encourage Collaboration

By Tim Minahan  |  Posted 2010-04-19 Print this article Print

Online communities encourage collaboration

But you don't have to wait. Online communities and other social media tools already allow you to collaborate in a free flowing, yet trackable way. Imagine posting the latest revision of a document-say, a quarterly business review-and having others weigh in with questions and edits.

Need more people involved? Simply invite them to participate in the discussion. Would news, video or other documents on the Web help you make your case? Add them. Need to share your work? Syndicate it with a feed and let Google index it so the world can find it-for free.

Collaborative tools in social media platforms-including blogs, discussions, microblogs, wikis and video-open a lot of doors. For example, a company can now have open access areas where customers, prospects and subject matter experts can engage in discussions on best practices, solutions, commodities and a host of other topics. But when it comes to collaboration, that company can utilize the private group areas of the platform. There the team from a single customer account can share a private work space with their counterparts at the company. Quarterly business reviews, questions, goals and any other private yet mission-critical information can be shared among those key players.

Social media gives companies the ability to listen to customers-an ability that should not be overlooked. These platforms enable you to hear what people are saying about your brand-from tech support issues (which you can step in and resolve) to help with new product ideas. Listen to these folks and you'll be engaging the most powerful force for collaboration you could ever unleash on your product development process: your customers. Hear your customers out and then discuss (either publicly on Twitter, privately in a secure community environment or even old school over the phone) what exactly you can do to address their current or future needs.

Other tools-such as sentiment monitoring or ideation platforms-provide an invaluable, quantifiable perspective on the relative importance of services, features and functionality. Keep your ear to the ground of the online world and engage your customers. You'll then see one of the most powerful collaborative interactions a marketer could ever hope to see: unsolicited praise for your company from a customer who's not on your formal reference list, yet who is pointing prospects to your door.

Tim Minahan is the Chief Marketing Officer at Ariba, responsible for the design and execution of the company's global marketing programs. Prior to Ariba, Tim served as senior vice president of marketing at Procuri, chief services officer at Aberdeen Group, and a prolific technology journalist. Tim holds a Bachelor's degree from Boston College. Follow and engage Tim at @tminahan or reach him at

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