Marketing & Online Communities: Techniques still rudimentary

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report.

I initiated the Marketing & Online Community research study in June of 2007, as a function of the Online Community Research Network. The study was conceived as an investigation into the current state of marketing to online communities, from the perspective of both the online community host, as well as from the perspective of a marketer.

We had over 60 completed surveys, and participants included large software companies, large community destination sites, niche community sites, platform providers and interactive marketing and advertising firms.

One of the most interesting findings from the study actually surfaced early in the process. We discovered that while community hosts and practitioners were willing to share their experiences, most marketers were not. After several in-person interviews, it became clear that most marketing and advertising agencies have not met with great success in their community marketing efforts, and are generally unwilling to talk about their experiences to date.The responses from the marketer’s perspective are proportionally less than those from the community host’s, but the insights provided are still of high value.

From the community host’s perspective, one of the most surprising takeaways was that community hosts were still largely relying on banner and text ads as their main marketing and advertising vehicles.

I’ve included 2 of the most relevant question summaries from the report below:

Q: What types of marketing and advertising activity do you support on your community sites?
Summary: Banner and text ads were the most common forms of marketing activity, followed by RSS, branded content and surveys. There was activity indicated on most categories of community marketing, which seems to indicate willingness on the part of online community hosts and practitioners to experiment with new forms of marketing to their communities. Virtual world storefronts and sponsored podcasts scored surprisingly low, given the media attention in the last 6-9 months.

Q: Is advertising targeting available on your site? If so, please select all options that apply.
Summary: Run of site and contextual targeting were available on the majority of respondent’s sites. More sophisticated technologies, like behavioral and demographic targeting were only available on a few of the respondents communities. Given that there is generally a large amount of demographic data available in a community members profile, it would seem that there is a large opportunity to engage in more sophisticated ad targeting on sites currently just offering run of site or contextual targeting.

The Marketing & Online Communities report is published by the Online Community Research Network, a collaborative research series for online community professionals. If you would like to learn more about the Marketing & Online Communities research report, or more about the Online Community Research Network, please visit the OC Research Network home page.

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