Josh Bernoff, of Forrester Research and coauthor of Groundswell, and Joe Cothrel, VP of Community at Lithium Technologies have a very worthwhile webinar, Join the Groundswell in Enterprise Social Software, available on-demand. Both speakers were worthwhile, and I took four full typed pages of notes while listening to the original broadcast. A few highlights:

  • Josh Bernoff told a story of about Linksys: it was Christmas day, normally one of the highest call volume days of the year as customers unbox their new wireless routers. But there was an earthquake in India that blocked the telephone lines, so no customer support was available by phone at all. It could have turned out to be a customer service disaster. But LinkSys had community support forums online, and customers were directed to the forums for support. So on Christmas day, every customer that needed help went to forums to get their questions answered, and LinkSys did not see customer complaints about the lack of available phone software.
  • Joe Cothrel said that Lithium has seen that you need on the order of mid-thousands of customers sent to a online community for that community to flourish and become self-sustaining. You can start in the hundreds or low-thousands, but it is a very different situation. But in mid-thousands, then a community can drive itself.
  • Josh, speaking on the importance of super-users, told that story that when Dell started their community 9 years ago, they pulled 30 technical support agents to do moderation. But over nine years later, as the size of the community has increased tremendously, the number of moderators has shrunk, not grown. Now they have 5 moderators. The community takes on that moderation role.

Check out the webinar for more really useful tips on launching online communities.