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comblu-community-best-practices.jpgJust 20% of brands use advocates in their online communities, according to [download page] a ComBlu study released in November. Data from the “State of Online Communities” indicates this to be virtually unchanged from 2010, trailing other online community engagement practices that have grown to demonstrate far wider penetration: for example, content aggregation jumped from 44% adoption in 2010 to 92% this year, while the use of personal dashboards also jumped, growing from 38% to 63% of the brands studied. However, only 48% of brands used a community manager, down from 51% in 2010, while the adoption rate of user reviews and content halved from 54% to 27%. According to ComBlu insight, while social marketers are getting more focused and sophisticated in how they are integrating community into their owned digital assets, this trend is tempered by an overall lack of growth in the adoption of community best practices since 2010.

Social Experimentation Remains Most Prevalent

“Social Experimentation” remains the most common type of community marketing category, growing from 45% of brands last year to slightly more than 50% this year. The study defines Social Experimentation as a brand experimenting with 1 or more communities, as well as social media, but lacking evidence of a cohesive strategy tying them all together. Meanwhile, the proportion of brands exhibiting a “Cohesive Strategy,” meaning that the brand has a solid community foundation with multiple activities rolling into a single online experience, also rose from 33% in 2010 to 41% this year.

Health Insurance Sector Quite Active

While the telecommunications industry demonstrated high levels of activity across all of the communities the study scored in the sector, the health insurance sector was also found to have high engagement levels, giving it the #3 ranking among the various industries studied. According to the study, brands in this sector often use community to support policies and deliver wellness education. Meanwhile, entertainment (#2), travel and hospitality (#4), and gaming (#5) all showed high activity levels, while banking, OTC drugs and pharmaceutical showed the lowest levels of community activity among the 15 industries studied.

Social Media Integration Increases

4 in 5 brands integrated their branded communities with their social media assets this year, up almost 10% from 73% in 2010. According to the report, though, most brands are still simply streaming their Twitter feeds and latest Facebook posts on their community sites, and few are integrating engagement across assets, staying instead with channel-specific campaigns. The study also notes while other social channels such as YouTube, Foursquare, LinkedIn or SlideShare were not highly integrated, 16% of the communities measured offered a mobile experience. The most integrated verticals were retail, technology, telecommunications, gaming, and enterprise resource planning, which all demonstrated full integration of their communities with their social media assets.

About the Data: For its study, ComBlu analyzed the community and social engagement programs of 251 communities deriving from 92 brands in 15 industries during the summer of 2011. The selection criteria were: large enterprise; industry leader; and diversity in its marketing approach.

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