This year’s State of Community Management research is the culmination of five years of defining, helping to develop and documenting the discipline of community management -- a critical enabler of social business. This year’s research surveyed objective artifacts of community management maturity and enabled us to compare programs across industries and use cases.

The good news is that 76 percent of communities have approved strategies. This is a great indication that organizations and executives can now envision the value communities will contribute to their business and suggests a maturing market.

The bad news? Only 35 percent communities have approved and resourced roadmaps.  

That means executives have largely bought in to the vision and have ambitions, but they have no idea what’s required to execute on it -- or at least are not confident enough to spend significant money doing so. As a result, only 48 percent of community initiatives can measure value -- and are likely struggling to build value because of lack of resources. As an executive, if you think you have a 50 percent or less chance of getting value, it feels a bit like gambling. This may explain why there is still ambivalence to invest in the basics like hiring a community manager, which 20 percent of communities still don’t have.


What Success Looks Like

However, when we looked at the best-in-class segment of communities -- the 20 percent of communities with the most mature processes -- we see a different picture. One hundred percent of those communities have an approved strategy and 76 percent of them have an approved and resourced roadmap. A whopping 85 percent of them can measure value. As an executive that payoff profile is a lot closer to a sure thing.

Along with helping executives understand that investing in a community approach pays off, this year’s State of Community Management research drills down to give social business teams the data on how to invest in a way that builds value.

We found the following artifacts to be correlated with the ability to measure value:

  • Community manager
  • Advocacy programs
  • Executive participation
  • External guidance
  • Enabling policies
  • Building community playbooks
  • Outcome-based measurement
  • Robust and responsive technology

This year’s research enables us to benchmark specific communities against the research set and provide specific guidance on the strengths and weakness of a given program -- giving executive concrete and objective data to help them make decisions. And while the majority of the market is still in the "Trough of Disillusionment" on Gartner’s Hype Cycle, we are seeing increasing numbers on the "Slope of Enlightenment" -- and that is exciting for everyone as it helps confirm that success is indeed possible, if unevenly distributed.