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Community Collaboration or Crowdsourcing has been a feature of the open source world for some time. More "traditional" enterprises are now active in this area. The challenges here are to explore and quantify this phenomen with respect to emerging business practice.
Community is about customers, customers who have an opinion on your company and its products. Customers who can help you with a variety of issues from development roadmaps, customer care and translation. The issue is how can you engage with them, earn their trust and leverage their expertise. What service can your company provide which will attract your customers, capture their interest and convert them into advocates for your company's philosophy, products and services? How do you establish what is attractive to these customers?
There are great examples of community participation in enterprises. The success of Amazon book reviewing is well known. Amazon customers like to give feedback on the books they have purchased and potential customers like to read them. The reward is in the activity, by its nature it is mutually supporting, those more enthusiastic personalities get the opportunity to guide others. It is a characteristic of communities that participation is segmented with about 90% of members playing a watching brief, reading but not contributing. The majority of the remaining 10% make small contributions, leaving the majority of the contribution to 1%. These 1% are the gurus, the power users, the community influencers. They engage in most of the activity and are soon recognised both inside and outside the enterprise for their activity and leadership.
Communities have been engaged in a myriad of activities, ranging from translation, through quality assurance, software development, review, authoring, customer care, to product development discussions. The question is how can an enterprise engage with their customers to foster a win-win scenario and leverage their customers' passion and expertise.