Being Small and Managing Communities : An explorative study on how SMEs utilize community management to communicate
Research on community management conducted in the past has used primarily examples and case studies within large corporations. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) also need to be included in community management, exploring the ways in which they deal with community management and if the large company theories on the subject can be applied to them.
In an attempt to respond to this gap in community management we respond to the question of how do small and medium-sized companies utilize communities to communicate successfully to their consumers?
During our work, we noted that SMEs were facing two phases when dealing with community management. A strategic step, where the company has to define its goals, its targets, the means it will invest and the tools it will use to deal with community management. The second phase being an operational step includes the creation of communities and the management of them.
In the strategic step, we pointed out questions which companies have to address before starting community management including the benefits that the company expects from the community, the amount it will invest in it and the tools the company will use.
In the operational step, five main principles were highlighted as commonly used by SMEs to communicate through communities: (1) promotion of an Ideal, (2) uniting around shared interests, (3) the use of the myth as a gathering factor, (4) the importance of the community involvement in the company, and (5) the physical interaction between community members and the brand.
Additionally, we found that SMEs have two main advantages when it comes to collaborating with customers/fans that large businesses did not have: proximity and flexibility. However, we found that it was difficult for small companies to find competent people working in the community management field.
This lack of knowledge within SMEs appeared to be the primary reason why most brand communities failed. Therefore, in this thesis we aimed to point out good habits in terms of community management in order for SMEs to possess a basic knowledge, thus enabling them to benefit from their advantages of proximity and flexibility, which are a result of by their size and is essential for community management.
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