Tuesday, November 3, 2009

EDR's Community Wins Groundswell Award: An Interview with VP Mark Wallace

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working with my friend, Mark Wallace, at a company called Shared Insights (subsequently merged with Knowledge Planet and became Mzinga). At Shared Insights, Mark was the head of sales, our mutual friend and colleague, Jim Storer, headed up product/community management and I lead our marketing efforts. The three of us were not only lucky enough to get into the social/community space well before the social web started to gain critical mass but we also had the benefit of working with some smart companies like Deloitte, Webex/Cisco and Environmental Data Resources (EDR).

Since that time, we've all gone our separate ways with me heading to Powered Inc., Jim co-founding a company called The Community Roundtable and Mark jumping over to EDR to run their community. I mention this only because the three of us stay in semi-regular touch and of course I've taken more than a passing interest in Mark's social and community efforts at EDR. To that end, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that EDR's community, Commonground, had just won Forrester's prestigious Groundswell Award for Best B2B Support Community.

As someone that likes to know about these things and is always interested in sharing great case studies, I couldn't resist asking Mark to do a quick e-mail interview with me:
  1. Tell us a little bit about EDR and what they do?
  2. Environmental Data Resources, Inc. is the leading provider of environmental risk information services and related workflow applications in the United States. As the innovator of the most comprehensive database of environmental and historical land use information, the company provides reports, subscription services and other solutions to help its customers reduce environmental risk.
  3. How did you come to work at EDR?
  4. EDR was one of our early clients when I led sales at Shared Insights. When SharedInsights was recapitalized, I worked with them from while I was with Mzinga. Shortly after I left Mzinga, I was attending the Community 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas when Rob Barber, CEO of EDR, Barry Libert, CEO of Mzinga, and I started talking. Next thing I knew, Rob and Jay Gaines, CMO of EDR, created a position and I joined the company shortly thereafter.
  5. Talk about how the commonground community came about?
  6. EDR has always prided itself on innovation. We believed strongly in the importance of social networking and the value it would have for businesses moving forward. EDR invested resources to build commonground to enable our marketplace to harness the power of social media to improve customer loyalty, educate our marketplace, improve our web presence, expand both vertically and horizontally, and ultimately generate new sources of revenue.
  7. What role do you play in the EDR commonground community (strategic and day-to-day)?
  8. My title is VP of Social Media for EDR. In that role, I am responsible for leading social media strategy and monetization efforts. I do whatever is required to deliver a valuable experience for our members while focusing on achieving the objectives outlined above.
  9. So you just found out that you won Forrester's prestigious Groundswell Award for best B2B support community. Who was your competition?
  10. That is a great question. When we saw the other submissions from SAP, Aflac, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Pitney Bowes, NetApp, we were pleased just to be in the same category as those market leading companies. When we found out from Josh Bernoff that we won, we were absolutely thrilled as it validated all the hard work of our members, partners, and staff.
  11. Why do you think that Forrester picked you?
  12. I think Forrester picked us because we were able to share real success metrics on the true business benefits to both members and EDR. Plus we have an extremely high customer satisfaction rate.
  13. What are 2-3 lessons that you've learned that you might share with other companies thinking about community?
  14. The three most important lessons I can share are a) Before you select technology, make sure you have a clear and concise strategy with defined metrics b) Content, either user or expert generated, or both, is the key ingredient to a thriving community. c) Many companies fail at building communities. It is not easy to build a thriving community. Therefore, set reasonable expectations up front and make sure you have the proper senior management support, resources, and organizational commitment to realize them.
  15. Thoughts on "build vs. join" i.e. do you feel like you've got all your bases covered with your community? Or are you a believer in participating in 3rd party social networks?
  16. I believe in both. It depends on your goals and objectives. Those will drive what makes the most sense. Often times, both in tandem are the best option. As the leader in our market, we decided the best approach was to build commonground. We also have a LinkedIn Group and a Facebook Fan page.
  17. Freestyle - give me any other pearls of wisdom or color commentary you'd like to share here. If you feel like you've answered everything you can skip this.
  18. When building a community, it is way too easy to get distracted. Focus is critical if you want to be successful.
NOTE: I interviewed both Mark this year in my Experts in the Industry series. If you want to learn more about him, head on over and have a look see.


  1. Aaron:

    Thank you very much for the opportunity to share a little bit about commonground with you and your readers. It has been a really exciting and rewarding week for our members, advisory board, and team.

    I appreciate the kind words about the friendship you, Jim, and I have been able to maintain over the years and also all your great advice along the way. It certainly has been an interesting journey...

    I look forward to catching up again in person in the very near future.

    Thank you again,

  2. Aaron - I think we need to get Mark to come to SXSW. He's earned it. :-)

    Mark - You totally earned the Groundswell Award. No one works harder and cares more about their community than you. Great work! I think you could be known as the "Hardest Working Man in Social Media." Oh, and you should go to SXSW in 2010... you can stay at Aaron's place with me. :-)

    Jim | @jimstorer

  3. Congratulations to Mark and the EDR community and big "thank you" to Forrester for considering the Pitney Bowes community.

    Aneta Hall
    Social Media Strategist
    Pitney Bowes

  4. Mark - my pleasure. To Jim's point, you earned it. And yeah, you better start planning your trip to SXSW this year. I will be pissed if you don't make it.

    Aneta - congrats on the great work you all do over at Pitney Bowes. You were in some good company in the Groundswell finals.


  5. Aneta - thank you for the congratulations. Much appreciated.

    Jim/Aaron - Thank you for putting the pressure on with the new badge! SXSW next year is definitely on my radar. I plan to be there and to follow your lead...