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Private vs Public Communities: Why Not Have Both?

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

Eating-cake.jpgInterestingly, after I posted my article last week on why limiting participation in your community is detrimental to achieving ROI, an article comes out over at Internet Evolution titled "Online Communities: Private vs. Public". There's some good quotes in the article from our CEO, Lyle Fong and from the CEO of Passenger, a company that's chosen a completely different direction than us when it comes to online communities. And it does an effective job of outlining the key differences between the private and public approaches. But in choosing to highlight the differences, I think it leaves the reader with a false choice. After all, just because a community is public, doesn't mean that everything in that community is exclusively public.


In a public community you can create private areas that are either invitation-only or that members can earn access to through certain behaviors. The difference is that when you grant folks access to these areas, you already know them and the way they participate due to their previous activity. Within that private area, you can engage much more closely with the vetted audience in whatever way is most appropriate for you objectives. And because the entire community is public, you are able to cast a much wider net for the audience that you want to try to attract.


Contrast this with an exclusively private community, where you invite a much smaller number of members that you want to join, and then hope they will come and participate in ways that you want. Not only do you have to get any potential members over that initial barrier to join in the first place, which is harder to do when the content and activity which is their motivation to join is not visible. But limiting participation also shifts the problem from finding productive members to trying to change the behavior of existing participants, which experience shows is a much harder thing to do.


The public vs.. private debate is a good one to be aware of, but be sure it doesn't take you to an either/or proposition that can limit your success.



Photo by by star5112

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