[Posted by Jeremiah Owyang]

Left: One of the 5 diagrams from the report: Successful online communities experience the following stages.

This is my debut, my first report published with my name as the lead is now published.  I’ve been getting a few emails from clients asking me for when this report will be live, so I’m happy to report this first of two reports is now live.

I spent a few months researching and preparing for this two-piece report series. I interviewed over 17 people to find out the commonalities between successful communities.

Here’s the executive summary :

Online Community Best Practices

Communities Are A Powerful Tool, As Long As You Put Members’ Needs First

"An online community is an interactive group of people joined together by a common interest. It’s also one of the most powerful tools a marketer can deploy for customer retention, word of mouth, and customer insight. To host a successful community, think of it as you would product development: Start by focusing on objectives, chart a road map, assemble the right team, and plan to be flexible. Then build your success by launching the community with the backing of your most enthusiastic customers and staying engaged as the community grows. Above all, remember that control is in the hands of the members, so put their needs first, build trust, and become an active part of the community."

While the report is only available for Forrester clients (like your company has products, this is ours) I can share with you some findings that seem to be a problem for everyone.  First of all, many companies have a hard time being successful with their community if they want to control it too tight. The most successful companies let go of the control and acted more like a host, rather than a policeman.   Secondly, many companies had a hard time kick-starting a community, just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come.

If you’re a Forrester client, you can access the full report at the Forrester site.  Please leave a comment on the site with your feedback, or on this blog.  Essentially, I’m like a product manager, and I hold my customer opinions very closely, if you’ve further questions, I’d be happy to talk further.

Here are some of the companies that I interviewed, ACDSee, AirTran Airways, Ant’s Eye View (Jake McKee), Avenue A | Razorfish, Carnival Cruise Lines, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Cnet TechRepublic, Constant Contact, Dogster, Intuit, Leverage Software, Microsoft, MySpace.com, Organic, Reuters AdvicePoint, SATMetrics, Telligent Systems, and you’ll even note that I credited Shel Israel for his definition of communities, I spearheaded this conversation on this blog, and in twitter.