The world of B2B is highly-specialized in nature with each professional working in his or her unique area of expertise. That’s where online communities come in. They afford B2B professionals new insights into their fields and allow them to network with fellow pros from across the globe.
The ideal online communities are sized just right – large enough to have a variety of participants bring in new ideas and advice, but small enough that working relationships and professional connections can be formed. They see lively discussion and debate from their members, the sharing of resources and knowledge contributed by field experts and host well-planned live events. Specialized B2B communities allow professionals to cut through the online clutter to get to the real goods.
Whether your goal is making your marketing more impactful, getting advice from your peers, innovating, supporting your customers and staff or getting fast expert advice, a good community can help you achieve it.
B2B News Network set out to find the top B2B online communities, so we went straight to you for the ones you find enriching and enjoy being a part of. You told us about your favourite spaces and places and how your fellow B2B practitioners can benefit from them.
Here’s our 2016 Online Community Influencer Index.
Influencer: Pipeline Marketing
Main form of interaction: Playbook meetings
Nominator: Alexis Getscher, Content Marketer at Bizible
A global community of revenue-focused B2B marketers, PipelineMarketing.com educates, inspires, and connects through quality content and conversations.
Since October 2015, Pipeline Marketing has been hosting live monthly “Playbook” meetups – or fireside chats – where B2B marketers lay their best marketing plays on the table. The event, which currently has dates in San Francisco, Seattle and New York City, connects hundreds of B2B marketers who want to learn from successful marketers and thought-leaders in the field. The company is looking for organizers to bring the event to their own cities.
Pipeline Marketing also curates publicly submitted stories from the web, and all information is organized into categories which include analytics, attribution, content, operations, email marketing and demand generation.
Alexis Getscher, Content Marketer from Bizible calls the info from Pipeline Marketing “the best user-submitted, B2B content from around the web.”
“This is a great resource for B2B professionals because it’s a one-stop shop of valuable B2B marketing content and networking events that allow attendees to hear from top-level marketers and how they rose to the top,” said Getscher said.
Influencer: Customer Experience Professionals Association
Main form of interaction: Ask the CX experts forum
Nominator: Crystal D’Cunha, Chief Experience Officer, The Inside View, Inc.
For those who work in the field of customer experience, this paid-access website for the profession’s governing body is a must-bookmark.
The Customer Experience Professionals Association is the premier global non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement and cultivation of the customer experience profession. As analysts and commentators recognize the importance of managing the customer’s experience to a business, the site continues to grow.
CXPA.org caters specifically to those professionals who work to design a customers’ direct and indirect contact with a business by increasing the impact and visibility of customer experience professionals, facilitating member-to-member sharing, and establish respected standards.
“It’s a consistently engaging online community focused on enhancing the consumer experience,” said nominator Crystal D’Cunha, Chief Experience Officer for The Inside View, Inc. “Many organizations worldwide provide feedback which is what leads to its diversity.”
Membership: Millions of IT pros and thousands of tech brands
Main form of interaction: Advice forum
Back in 2005, former IT executives Scott Abel, Jay Hallberg, Greg Kattawar and Francis Sullivan began discussing ways to build an online social network for IT professionals where users could help each other solve common tech problems.
By January 2006, Spiceworks was born.
Earning a spot in every influential community just because of its longevity and influence in the IT community, Spiceworks is a professional network which allows users from the IT industry to collaborate and seek advice online from more than six millions IT professionals in over 200 countries around the world. Users can also purchase IT-related services and products from 3,000 technology vendors through the site’s marketplace.
Although Spiceworks’ professional network and software are free to users, premium features can be purchased.
Want to experience Spiceworks live? The company has hosted SpiceWorld, a conference for its users, annually since 2008.
Main form of interaction: Challenges
That’s the verb, not the noun – HitRecord is one of the best examples we’ve seen of true organic collaboration within a community, and its dynamics offers much to be learned by B2B marketing leaders.
A private, for-profit company, HitRecord is all about community collaboration. An online collaborative production company owned by actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who founded the company in 2004 with his brother Dan, HitRecord started as way for the brothers to get feedback for videos they posted online.
HitRecord proved to be so popular that the Gordon-Levitts opened the site up to other artists, who are paid for taking on bite-sized creative roles – called challenges – towards the completion of a project. The projects are then produced into television shows, short films, books and live events.
This site focuses on the creative field, and it’s worth a look, even if you’re not in the industry. Check out the website for its unique array of organized projects, featured projects and see how people from all over the world are contributing – whether it’s through their writing, editing, animation, cinematography, acting, vocals, music, voice acting or illustration.
Main form of interaction: Know-How Exchange Forum
One of the most important forward-thinking marketing communities, MarketingProfs houses applicable content and interesting events. The content on the site pushes the envelope, focuses on education and offers real value. It has a successful revenue model to boot, which is, to this day, still unusual for a standalone online community.
MarketingProfs offers modern marketers real-world education on subjects including advertising and sales, brand management, career management, email marketing, social media, graphic design, market research and public relations through training, best practices and research.
The community lists upcoming conferences and events, as well as free webinars, made possible by big-name sponsors like IBM Marketing Cloud, Extole and Act-On Software.
But one of MarketingProfs’ most valuable commodities is its Know-How Exchange Forum and archive, which is touted by many to be one of the most vibrant on the web. Community members can post questions and answers on advertising, branding, career training, social media, strategy research and e-marketing.
Influencer: The Community Roundtable
Membership: 150 corporate members
Main form of interaction: TheCR Network, a private membership community for community professionals that provides training, networking and programming to hundreds of pros around the world. Learn more about it here: communityroundtable.com/services/
Podcast series is also a way that the public can interact.
We had to include the community for communities on the list.
With a unique understanding of how networked communications environments can transform how people work, The Community Roundtable (TheCR) co-founder Rachel Happe – recently touted to be one of the five most connected people in social business – spent the last two decades helping organizations use emerging technologies to advance their business strategies. She formed TheCR with a goal of supporting business leaders as they formed their community and social business strategies by giving them access to support, information, case studies, research and experts from around the world.
TheCR leads the way with its research, member education programming, an active job board and its roster of member events. This community also features a free podcast series with some of the smartest minds in the community and social business space highlighting what they’re working on, why they do what they do, and what advice they have for you.
Membership: Web properties have approximately 2M unique visitors per month, and Engineering.com has about 400,000 members
Main form of interaction: Discussion forum
Even engineers can agree that those in their professions are their own breed of people. Over the last fifteen years, Engineering.com CEO John Hayes and team have built an outstanding set of resources and connections for just for engineers. One of the key strengths of engineering.com is how laser-focused on member interests the website is, and its data-driven approach.
A digital multimedia publisher that provides a platform for industrial brands to reach millions of engineers and designers around the world each month, Engineering.com features a job board and sections where engineers can read about and discuss education, design, electronics, videos, resources and webinars. Since the industry thrives on the new, this site is a great source for the latest advances in technology and innovative new products.
… And one to watch: Biznology
Membership: Over 5K followers on Twitter and about 2K email subscribers
Main form of interaction: Webinars
Nominator: James Mathewson, Distinguished Technical Marketer, Search at IBM
For a number of reasons, many B2B companies have had limited success with marketing, but the main one is that most marketing tactics simply don’t work for B2B.
Enter Biznology, a community that can help B2B professionals who don’t know how to build support for a digital marketing program. It’s here that the pros can learn best practices from what nominator James Mathewson, a Distinguished Technical Marketer at Search at IBM calls “a top resource for B2B digital marketing.”
The site offers a trove of articles and training opportunities – including a series of paid mini-MBA courses – for brand marketing, B2B digital marketing and digital public relations, among other marketing subjects. Once on the site, users can sign up for a free account to attend webinars and access past webinars in categories including digital, social media, Internet, content and B2B marketing, market research and website search.
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