Friday, January 26, 2007

 

Making community work (without doing a thing)

Online communities don't really work when they're controlled by a company, brand or individual that has a vested interest in managing the conversation.

They don't really work when the conversation is dominated by one or two strong-minded individuals.

They don't really work when they're thought of as a communication channel to one's customers.

And yet, many companies and brands justify online customer forums with one or more of these objectives in mind.

The problem is, your customer is much smarter than that. They'll see through your strategy in a second.

The best communities are those that develop, blossom and mature on their own. The best communities are truly egalitarian, with a free exchange of ideas and opinions.

And whether you believe it now or not, this is actually the most valuable forum for marketers and product planners as well. When your customers are able to share ideas and opinions with each other freely, you get a true sense for what they like, what they don't like, what they want, and what they don't want.

Online communities that are given the freedom to find their own path represent a gold mine for marketers. Are you brave enough to let them develop? And are you smart enough to listen, and take action on what you've heard?

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