Monday, September 1, 2008

Building branded communities... why not?

I'm still pleasantly suprised that the "buy or build" conversation comes up so much in relation to social media web functionality. But, I guess its good that potential clients are still asking what's involved in developing their own offering, despite the availability of so many white cost-effective white-label and hosted solutions.

But what do you do when you build it and they don't come? What if there is no Field of Dreams?

I had this recently when a start-up I know built a community part of its website and nobody used it. My first question to ask is "what were you expecting?". You wouldn't produce a product and not advertise it. Somehow they thought that a site would instantly create evangelic users who would encourage thousands of others, whilst instantly appearing top in Google of all keywords. (How I laughed... when I walked out of the room)

Then there's the case that visitors come, look around and disappear. Why? Well they don't find anything of interest! Either your navigation or search doesn't let them find what they want.. or worse still... your community isn't.. errrr... communicating correctly.

The worst thing happens is when brands ignore existing communities and try to set up their own in competition. .Partly through ignorance and partly from arrogance, this is commerical madness and will potentially see companies throw money at something they need not do. It may also create confusion and fragment conversations, making tracking & measurement harder.

So next time your CMO walks over and says something like "we need to build a community", forget what you see in films.

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