How to choose a community platform

Pick the best technology to fit your marketing efforts.

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The emergence of community platforms has been one of the most exciting technology marketplaces to watch over the past few years. These tools have revolutionised digital marketing by allowing companies to develop online communities that they can use to facilitate conversations about products, stimulate innovation initiatives, and generate new levels of customer intimacy. Given the significant competitive advantages that can result from such a highly visible technology, it's important that sourcing professionals play a role in their procurement.

However, as the market for community platforms grows, so do the challenges associated with managing a variety of suppliers and stakeholder objectives. Many sourcing teams find themselves struggling to consolidate several internal community platforms and indentify the vendor that most closely aligns with long term organisational objectives.

To provide some clarity and best practices around sourcing community platforms, Forrester spoke with seven leading community platform vendors about the evolution of their organisations and their history of working with sourcing teams. Our conversations highlighted seven key points for sourcing to consider when evaluating these technologies:

1. Pay close attention to business model differences

The diversity of business models in this market makes it important for sourcing pros to be savvy to their own business and supplier strengths. For example, a company like Pluck has expertise with high end publishing and advertising companies, but wants its clients to have some internal development competencies.

Contrast that model to Kickapps, which operates more as an on-demand option for web publishers, or LiveWorld, which differentiates based on its premier services. The best company for one organisation may not be the best fit for yours, so make sure to select vendors that are closely aligned with the organization's unique business goals.

2. Consider how the platform will scale to multiple users and integrate

Many community platform providers are shifting their focus to provide capabilities outside of the marketing organization. This is a positive change for sourcing teams, who are now able to consolidate their collaboration, idea management, and innovation technologies with one vendor. It also means that you need to be keenly aware of factors that could limit scalability. Ask yourself: Does the supplier have familiarity working with non-marketing users? Does the platform integrate with other collaboration tools?

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