Several Tweets today from Jeremiah Owyang got me thinking about community vendors and how they do (or do not) use their own platforms to build communities for their customers and users.
Quoted from @jowyang’s Twitter stream:
- Talking to a client, they are having troubles with one of the community mangers vendors in my wave, interesting.
- Getting an earful, they are frustrated with vendor…I’m almost a social media psychologist. I’ll help them find someone else.
- Fact: Many of the vendors in my community platform wave ironically do NOT offer a community to their own customers to support themselves.
- Sad Fact: I interviewed up to three clients of the vendors (customer references) some clients didn’t like the vendor –who didn’t even know
- Sad Fact Cont: Beyond all the dirt I learned about the vendor’s weaknesses, more importantly it told me they were not in touch with clients.
My advice to community platform vendors:
- If you don’t already have a public user community or support community for your customers running on the latest release of your platform, start planning one now.
- Get your product management and engineering teams involved in the community and spend time learning what your customers like and don’t like in addition to the features they want in future releases.
- Spend some time monitoring what your customers are saying about you online (Twitter, blogs, and other forums) to avoid being caught off guard by negative feedback.
My advice to anyone selecting a community platform vendor:
- If they are not running a public community for their customers and users that is built on their platform, run (not walk) away from that vendor.
- Spend a significant amount of time in that public community getting a feel for the issues that other customers are having with their software. Also take note of how long it takes for them to respond to questions or issues.
- Ask for some customer references. Call the references and chat about their experiences with the vendor. Ask them for specific examples of both positive and negative interactions and experiences.
While Jeremiah says that “Many of the vendors in my community platform wave ironically do NOT offer a community to their own customers to support themselves”, the best vendors do use their own software to build external communities for their customers.
Here are three examples of vendors who eat their own dogfood:
- Jive Software (my previous employer) has a bunch of communities built on Clearspace for developers, support, partners, business users, and open source products.
- Lithium has the Lithosphere where customers can discuss the software, find tips and best practices, get support, and more.
- Community Server by telligent has a community with a heavy developer focus.
There are plenty of others who run vibrant communities for users of their platform; however, I was surprised by how many do not. While I was working at Jive, we learned so much about our software by using it to host our own communities. We found bugs early, felt the pain points along with our customers, and celebrated when new features were introduced in the product. Any vendor who isn’t eating their own dogfood is using you, their customer, as a testing bed. I’ll take my chances with vendors who use their software over ones that do not any day.
Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:
6 thoughts on “Trend: Community Vendors Who Eat Their Own Dogfood”
Hi Dawn –
Agree that the best way to learn about your product is to use it, as well as monitoring what others are saying about you on Twitter & Google Alerts. Perhaps you might have seen an article that Jeremiah wrote about UserVoice and how we also, “eat our own dogfood.”
Check out our kibble: http://uservoice.uservoice.com
Thank you for the write up – great info.
I’d prefer to say “sipping our own champagne” over “eating our own dog food”. If that’s a bit stuffy, then maybe “imbibing our home brew” sounds more like it.
In any case, thanks for pointing out the examples and all around good community management advice.
Marcus, Thanks for the link.
Thanks. Maybe I’ll have to start using “sipping our own champagne” or “imbibing our home brew” 🙂
Great post Dawn! Couldn’t agree more about the importance of using your own product. I work at Atlassian and you might also want to consider listing us as an example of dog-fooding.
We have a public instance of our wiki, confluence.atlassian.com, as a knowledgebase and platform to collaborate with our community. We also a public instance of our issue tracker, jira.atlassian.com, to make public all known issues for our products and let our customers vote on what they want us to work on.
Getting the community involved is important for us too as we have given away hundreds of licenses to Open Source communities for their public instances, http://www.atlassian.com/opensource/
Good point. I am actually a big fan of what Atlassian has done with their community and in support of open source projects. I’ve spent quite a bit of time using JIRA, too.
Definitely a good example of dog-fooding.
Great post here, and you’re absolutely right about the importance of walking the talk as a community vendor.
Here’s how we do that at LiveWorld: Our SocialVoice community (http://socialvoice.liveworld.com/) is a public example of our standard Community Center platform that our clients (big brands, typically) use. We have and will continue to encourage existing and potential future customers testdrive our platform by participating in SocialVoice themselves. They can create their own blog and profile, share photos, upload videos, join in forum discussions, add comments to blog posts, etc. In short, they can get a real sense of how our platform works.
SocialVoice is also a reflection of LiveWorld’s approach to community, and we think that shines through in particular in the voices of our bloggers. More than a dozen LiveWorld staffers are now blogging regularly about professional *and* personal topics. So we cover trends in community/social networking, but we also write about gardening, traveling, parenting, and fantasy football (those posts seem to generate the most comments!).
Enjoying your blog, Dawn. Thanks for continuing to raise these important issues and for keeping the vendors on their toes!
Bryan Person | @BryanPerson
LiveWorld social media evangelist
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