LiveBlog: What’s Wrong with the White Label Social Networking Industry?

This is really heaven for me, many of the vendors I cover such as SmallWorld labs, Jive, Telligent, Hivelive, Lithium, Webcrossing, Google all at the same table.

I’m here here at the Online Community Unconference at a session where we’re probing the problems with the White Label Social networking space. The question? Are social platforms shit? (I didn’t come up with, I’m just taking notes)

[The question posed to this roundtable of vendors, clients and analyst: “Are social platforms shit?”]

If you don’t know the value of white label social networking vendors are, many large brands and organizations are hiring them to build online communities for their customers and prospects. I get a few calls every week from clients to discuss this growing need.

What’s interesting is that all the folks at the table are collaborating (as one would expect from the community industry) to discuss pan-industry problems from clients, features, etc.

Who was here? A dozen folks, a majority are vendors, and a few community managers and strategists from brands and companies. Leading this session is Greg Biggers.

Challenges expressed by the table:

Lack of Interoperability within this fledging industry
Platforms don’t have interoperability, due to lack of standards. For example brands create a community for customers, while marketers launch a facebook campaign. Differences include objects, protocols, data types, login, profiles, news page data.

Community Managers don’t know what they want, so who should educate them.

Owners want to move data from one vendor to another. Some say that the database schema is very similar from some vendors, it wouldn’t be hard to develop a migrator.

One community manager from a large tech brand (she asked me not to blog her company) wants to expose and share CRM data.

Lack of Flexibility
Not having a standard supply of community feature ‘recipes’ are difficult, no cookie cutter approach.

Content and navigation is sometimes not organized in a way of the communities’ need.

Communities software need to be flexible to adapt to the communities needs. For example, if a ‘food’ community shifts their focus from recipes to menus or then to ingredients, the software needs to be able to adapt and change.

How can a platform adapt to emerging technologies, such as twitter.

Who is responsible for understanding the domain of the community.

Lack of User Experience too many community projects

Confusion around Measurement
Would like to have user behavior analytics, current metrics are not easy to use. Telligent showed off their product, right time at the right place.

Difficult to get customer data behavior.

Lack of standardization of community behavior, such as a standard support metric, standard growth metric, etc.

Behavorial metrics are easier to gather but tying back to ROI will be difficult.

Large communities cannot self-manage
Tools need to allow the community to manage it self, with the right features to remove, alert, reduce bad behavior.

High Performance issues rising
Having hosting services in multiple locations is a challenge for communities that need to scale for large enterprises that need high-availability. (Webcrossing and solutionset). Expect this to continue to be an issue as communities become a node in the enterprise software system.

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Tagged #ocu2008

Update: Dennis McDonald suggests the solution could be process, not more technology.