There are several independent communities around Blackberry: Blackberry forums has about 16,000 users, PinStack has about 100,000 users. One is focused on the IT community supporting blackberry and another supporting the user community. Besides this Blackberry has their own developer community, Blackberry Connection and an Owners Lounge. Owners lounge has the fewest users – approximately 12,000 I am told* (not verified).
There are a total of approximately 4.2 Million blackberry users, worldwide and about 3+ million in US.
So less than 0.3% of users have signed up for their “communities”. According to Travel Insider, 59% of users considered themselves satisfied and 7% dissatisfied.
So why such low numbers for community participation and if these are the numbers for a product that is so well liked and universally considered a HIT, what does it say about participation levels for your own company’s communities?
The one takeway: Supporting independent communities around your company’s products and services has justified ROI.
Here are some major findings about how to justify ROI for supporting independent communities:
1. No cost of community software, hardware, telecom, support personnel etc. – This cost is typically the highest when you are starting a new community. With independent communities this cost is borne by the community participants. Most of these communities are user funded or ad supported. Your company obtains great value with limited investment in supporting the community with oversight and direction.
2. Lower cost of supporting users: Every user that goes to pinstack for questions is NOT going to Blackberry site or calling their support – this is a huge cost savings.
3. Lower cost of research and trend identification: Independent communities tend to be more innovative around cost management, since they are driven by users. They are more likely to give you information about new trends, since there is a perception of being “objective” and “independent”. Instead of paying a consulting firm for focus groups and private communities, you can obtain the same level and possibly quality of information at much lower cost.
There are some downsides of course, but we will discuss that in a future post.