Extracted 09SEP2011 from http://socialmediatoday.com/vanessa-dimauro/352941/make-b2b-communities-essen...
...the strategic impact of many online communities may not be clear to the larger organization that funds the effort. This is especially common with B2B or customer online communities, where the goal is to engage and serve customers, rather than generating revenue by monetizing programs and features directly.
...Other examples include product development and R&D efforts. The ongoing challenge for these groups is defining and inventing new products, services and enhancements in anticipation of future customer needs and desires. They are the soothsayers and futurists within every organization. Their success depends on an ability to imagine what current and new customers will want -- to read the mind of the market.
Using an online community or social business initiative, the product development team can tap into ongoing conversations -- a dynamic focus group -- to discern what matters to customers and prospects right now, plus get early warning indicators about products or services which may need changes, or will face new competition. Reading discussions, measuring topic clicks, aggregating site and cloud meta-tagging behaviors all provide a kind of crystal ball into customer and prospect needs. But product dev and R&D already have lots to do. Unless the community team can deliver this information in a timely, succinct and actionable form, these insights will go to waste.