Best Practice for Customer Communities: Facilitate Social Networking with Leverage Software

I reviewed a very good demonstration of Leverage Software and its social networking on-demand offering version 5.5. Kate Swanson, Senior Sales Executive of Leverage Software, who has been with the company since Aug 2005 showed their customers’ implementation of the system; InfoWorld IT Exec-Connect .
First some facts about the company:

1. Founded in 2003, by Mike Walsh and Joe Kleinschmidt.

2. Privately held, venture backed (June 2005, was their series A; Investors include Halsey Minor and his OnDemand Venture Capital Fund
and John Stanton, a financial services entrepreneur and executive)

3. Based in San Francisco the company has over 150 customers – their primary target verticals are High Tech – Salesforce.com, Microsoft, etc. and Media Companies– InfoWorld, CMP etc. They used to target events (seminars, user conferences, etc.) for social networking before, but now more companies are looking to build communities around their customers.

InfoWorld Exec-Connect (about 10,000 members) is a good example of a social networking
business community. Its objective is to help IT professionals (its
readers primarily) connect with others. Here is why – they believe
communities will keep their readers loyal, allow them to create
evangelists and increase ad revenue because of their focused user
community.

 

Top Takeaways & Key Capabilities:
1. Its very simple to use and get up and running as a community member. Once a user enters their profile information there is a very cool people-map capability that will match your interests and your profile with others that are the closest fit to yours. Makes it easy to find users “who have the same wavelength” – see below. So, my image is the center and the people that match my interests close are nearer to my image and others are further away. Very nice.

<img src="/images/64360-56413/Infoworld1.gif”>

2. They have a suite of capabilities once you are setup: Advertising support, Polls, Blogs (users can blog for other members), Discussion boards, Online Events and Meetings, Group Chat, etc. Pretty comprehensive and well thought through.

3. Since they are an on Demand service, once you sign up, you pay per user per month. Setup for a new account takes approximately weeks (4-5) – with colors, brand, logos, etc. A project manager will work with your team to get his up and running.

4. Then you start to recruit users and collect reports and administration. One very cool report tells you if there is a disconnect between who your users are and who they are looking to meet. Which will give you trends and information about what type and kinds of people to recruit to the network.

The things that I thought still needed work:

1. They dont have user incentives & rewards system, which is a key measure of how to get users motivated to contribute. Which is okay for now, but I can see as they branch into creating communities for things beyond social networking, will be a challenge. I would not recommend building a support community or a product innovation community on this as it is.

2. Marketing teams tended to be the primary target user at the companies was the impression Kate gave me. Which is nice, but I dont think they have done a great job of convincing me that there is great ROI (Tangible, Measurable and Documented) with social networking communities.

3. The profile information (what I am looking for and my preferences) seemed still very naive and nascent. At the InfoWorld community for example, the results for me were matched with arcane people from Indonesia and SOA, even though I did not check the SOA box. Its a start, but that capability will be huge to help people connect with people in their same wavelength and if your first experience is poor, you tend to discredit it going forward is my experience.