Wired Pursuits

Archive for November 2008

­I often hear people ask, “How do I go about creating an online community?”  “What resources will I need?” “How much time will it take?”  All good questions, but taken out of the context of “why” you want to create a community, they’re difficult if not impossible to answer.

It’s the “why” that needs to be answered first.  The “what” and the “how” are merely the tactics you’ll use to implement the why.

Online communities aren’t about you.

When I ask B2B companies “why” they want to start online communities, they typically answer with things like:

  • To drive sales.
  • To get more leads in the pipeline.
  • To push out information about our products to our customers.

If you’re starting here, ask yourself, “Would a community really want to help me do those things?”  The answer is they wouldn’t – none of this benefits the member.

Shift your focus and think about what the community does for its members.

Successful online communities focus on benefits to members.  Generating leads and driving sales may be desired outcomes, but they shouldn’t be the “why.”

For example, Deloitte is creating a community for CFO’s that allows them to discuss Sarbanes-Oxley regulations in terms of its effects on their businesses.  Which regulations are working, which are onerous, and what they think should be done to reduce the burden on businesses while protecting the public.  Deloitte plans to provide the information to the legislature to help them gain a better understanding of the real impact of the law.

Benefits to members?  Sharing information with other experts, learning from others, potentially having a positive effect on legislation that reduces impacts to their organization.

Benefits to Deliotte?  Getting into the heads of potential customers and having a better understanding of their issues and needs.  Now they’re better positioned to adapt services to address those needs.  They’re also increasing awareness with this specific audience.  All things that should positively impact leads and ultimately drive product innovation and sales.

Ask yourself “why” members would care.

So if your thinking about whether an online community makes sense for your company, ask yourself first if it makes sense for the members.

If you focus on truly trying to help or facilitate the needs of the community, you’ll be more likely to be successful at realizing benefits to your company.

What communities have you see that have succeeded?  Why did they work?

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