Public

Do You Even Deserve It?

Khoros Oracle

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There are those who say that building a Community from scratch is tough, and it certainly can be.

However, before even looking at the length and breadth of the challenge, maybe examining one’s own qualifications comes first.  To wit, should building an Online Community even happen at all?  If your business has already arrived, then I am more likely to say ‘yes’ than ‘no’.  A wise man once said, “Community is a numbers game”, and I have found that to be true as the day is long.  A business that has arrived probably has some good numbers.  Perhaps it is the volume of customers that constitute those numbers, or instead, there are fewer customers that pay a lot of money, and thus they have more ‘skin in the game’ whenever they interact with the brand.  If the business is new and/or does not have a lot of customers, there could be trouble succeeding with their dedicated Online Community.        

I consider Online Community the most primal form of social media. 

Furthermore, because Online Community was both the first digital social network and is still alive today in a recognizable form (even after decades of internet digital evolution), it is also the best.  Facebook and Twitter have titanic numbers and a level of digital ubiquity to be commended, but Twitter is hampered by the ‘drive-by’ transmission of dialogue, and Facebook is hamstrung by the relentless noise and ego that are typically emitted by its members.  Just about everybody and every brand is on those platforms. Welcome to the social media bunny hills!        

Community endures!

Traits such as resilience, tenure, and longevity hold sway over me in this otherwise fickle (and facile!) social media age that we are living in. It continues to endear itself to me.  And because it sits (in my mind, at least) on a throne within a fictional pantheon of social media vehicles, I am inclined to give it the respect and deference it deserves.  The polite way of a brand inquiring about an opportunity with such social media royalty might come in the form of gently asking, “have we earned the right to have an Online Community?” (this, btw, is how my greatly respected colleague and friend, Michal Pulhala, always likes to put it)

But my more tyrannical brand of stern task mastering likes to ask the question a bit more indelicately:

Does the brand even deserve the honor of taking a shot at having an Online Community? 

You read that last question correctly.  In this day and age, not every brand or organization needs its own Community platform or even deserves it.  And I generally make the distinction based on whether the business (or more specifically, the products and services that the business provides) has an audience that will thrive off of peer-to-peer interaction.  Case in point, there are very prominent and well-established brands that would definitely struggle with nurturing and growing a dedicated Community platform.  Tide laundry detergent comes to mind.  In the US it is the dominant laundry detergent brand.  Their sponsored ‘Tide Ride’ paint scheme is considered quite famous within American NASCAR motorsports.  Truly a well-known and successful brand!  But would the users of Tide be willing to have ongoing deeper discussions about using the product?  If you answered, ‘yes’, then you and I are in deep disagreement.

Tide laundry detergent could maybe have a successful little blog.  They could even have a successful wiki.  They might even have a few decent conversations in a Facebook group.  But a dedicated and self-sustaining peer-to-peer Community on any type of garden-variety forum platform that grows over years and years?  No.  I do not think so.  Why?  Here are 3 significant reasons:

  1. Tide laundry detergent is not a complicated product to use
  2. Although it is ubiquitous, there is no sense of real fellowship among users (nobody bonds with another human being because they use the same brand of laundry detergent)
  3. Nobody makes a hobby or lifestyle out of doing laundry (although you can certainly be a successful business that provides laundry as a service)

I think that the right expectations need to be set on what a successful Community looks like for a particular brand at a specific point in time. Some of the stalwart principles to keep in mind for any brand getting started are found here, but the fundamental question of whether a brand should even have a dedicated Community in the first place probably starts a bit earlier in the conversation as they mull over 3 significant things germane to their business:

  1. The complexity of the brand’s products
  2. A sense of collective joy (or perhaps shared misery) experienced when customers discuss the brand’s products
  3. Customers using the brand’s products for a significant amount of time on a regular basis

Should a brand base any of its Online Community conception decisions on any of these types of qualifications? 

Probably.  Did you think about any of these things when considering whether your brand was ready for Community?  LIkely.

For those people considering Online Community for their brand in the here and now, perhaps starting with the question, ‘do we even deserve it?’, might be the best place to start.  You could be the one that will be on the hook for a Community’s success or failure, so from a career expanding (or contracting) point of view, contemplating the items above might just be in your best interest.

Progress is earned.  Progress takes work.  Intestinal fortitude is required.  Does a brand even deserve to have a Community?  I think it is worth considering what an OG Community guy and thoughtful tech pundit like Guy Kawasaki said on the on the subject a little while back:

Create something worth building a community around. This is a repeated theme in my writing: the key to evangelism, sales, demoing, and building a community is a great product. Frankly, if you create a great product, you may not be able to stop a community from forming even if you tried. By contrast, it’s hard to build a community around mundane and mediocre **bleep** no matter how hard you try.

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