The close of 2011 marks the end to another fast-paced and eventful year for digital business. As expected, Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Social Media Integration, Mobile and Cloud Computing got a lot of attention, and rightfully so. All of these areas, across the digital business space, continued to push our industry forward at moderate speeds. In line with these areas, came rise to a concept commonly referred to as the 3 Cs of Customer Experience Management (#cxm): Content, Community and Commerce. Although all three Cs are critical for digital business, I feel that the Community aspect will really flourish in 2012, and should be strategically targeted as a major area of focus organizationally. Here’s why.

The Digital Business Lifecycle

I think we can all agree that the digital business lifecycle starts with Content, and ideally ends with Commerce. Having useful and captivating content drives traffic and interest, and can build brand loyalty, trust and relationships. So without content, the buck stops there. By leveraging a powerful Content Management System (CMS), businesses can quickly and effectively create and deliver targeted content to their respective audience(s).

Hopefully, the content your organization is creating is captivating enough, and customer-focused enough, that it’s driving through to commerce. Content from this perspective is also incredibly important as it serves as one of the last fully controlled environments for business communication about your business and brand.

Commerce, on the tail end, is what most businesses are in the business of doing -- primarily selling some sort of goods and/or services. Rich content, and the right mix of outbound and inbound marketing efforts, are both significant forces behind driving commerce. That being said, there is an entire population of customers, prospects and end users that are communicating about your brands, products and services somewhere else -- somewhere out of your control.

This is where Communities comes into play, the middle man that can bridge the gap between your Content, and your Commerce.


Darren Guarnaccia, Senior VP of Product Marketing of Sitecore, talks about the interaction of these 3 Cs and adds another one. “I see a 4th C becoming important, Consistency. With all the channels and all the interactions, it will be important to blend content consumption, community engagement into the customer lifecycle in which commerce is an important milestone. We see the emergence of tools that can help automate the customer engagement process, and give marketers new tools to consistently engage customers across commerce, community and the various channels they interact on and a consistent and cohesive fashion.”

It’s Important What People Say About Your Brand

Ever hear of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn? Yeah, me too! They are all highly used, massive communities of people talking about your brands and sharing personal experiences about them. Hopefully, you like what they are saying! Addressing the sentiment of these communities and these conversations, and reputation management, is best left for another article, but a takeaway worth mentioning here is that most of this is out of your organization’s control. A separate organizational effort would need to take place with regard to using monitoring tools, analysis and analytics to measure and address the good, the bad, and the beautiful here.

I am by no means saying that these social networks are bad in any way; I personally use all of them on a daily basis, and cannot remember what life was like before them. I do, however, believe that they can create a disconnect within your organization's digital business lifecycle, and for this reason, being able to create and better manage your own communities will be a big topic next year.

Rob Howard, Founder and CTO of Telligent, states "Social is quickly becoming the new norm for how we make decisions. Social recommendations and conversations factor into everyday questions, like which book to buy and what mobile apps to download. In 2012, I expect that we will see the rise of social commerce. Social commerce connects behavior and recommendations within online communities to actions and choices made around what products to buy. Ultimately, online communities will be the fuel that enables sellers to better understand what buyers want and how they make their purchasing decisions."

Benefits to Owning a Community

There is a sign in my barber’s shop that says: “If you are happy with our service, tell your friends; if you are not, tell us." That sums it up perfectly. Imagine the benefits to having your own co-managed community: Your audience, and your organization. The transfer of information can be completely symbiotic. Here are some examples:

  • Applaud the Good -- there can be many different kinds of good or positive communication, ranging from good customer feedback to helpful customer interactions with each other. Over time, your community can start to become a real world knowledge base, packed with truthful and informative non-biased feedback.
  • Address the Bad -- no one person or organization is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s just part of growth. But mistakes should be addressed, resolved and prevented from happening again in the future. Tying in a ticketing system or offering discounts to apologize for poor service can all be facilitated through your community. Your community can greatly help with addressing issues that are important to customers, increase their loyalty and better your product and/or service’s quality.
  • Share the Beautiful -- those email messages that you print out and hang in the corporate kitchen about how a member of the team outperformed, or how your product delivered much more than expected, should be shared. This is a great tie-in back to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and your organization’s other external social communities -- share them there and link them back to your community.
  • Leverage the Crowd -- feedback from actual consumers of your products and/or services is the best feedback you can get. This information can be incredibly beneficial in product and business development initiatives that can directly help your organization, as well as being able to deliver higher value, quality and service to consumers of your product -- a real nice win-win.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading: