Thursday, April 16, 2009
Six reasons why no one likes you online
Why is it that so many companies are still struggling to create vibrant online communities? For every Threadless or Ideastorm, there are literally thousands of failed attempts at community-creation. What are so many companies missing?
Last week at Online Media Bootcamp I led a session on building online communities. While I'm not going to share the same steps I talked about in my presentation, I will share six reasons why most companies (and individuals) have problems creating an online community.
1 - You think monetization first - This is the quickest way to doom your community-building efforts (and really the fastest way to screw up any social media initiative). Communities do not form around the idea of being monetized. Want to make money off your community? Fine, but you can't monetize something that doesn't exist. And the community won't come together until you have created something of value for them.
2 - Value creation? What's that? - Stop right now and ask yourself this question; 'What value am I creating for the people I am trying to attract?' If you can't answer this question immediately, then you might not be trying to reach Houston, but you definitely do have a problem. Successful community-building efforts start by creating value for the people you are trying to reach.
3 - You are waiting for the community to come to you - One of the biggest myths about online community building is 'if you build it, they will come' (which is the first cousin of 'content is king'). That's not to say that you can't create valuable content and sit back and watch as a community forms around your efforts. But the best approach is to create something of value AND communicate that value to others by LEAVING your community. Assume that no one is going to come to you, and go find the people you are trying to attract.
4 - You don't give your members the ability or incentive to promote you to others - As your community begins to gain traction, do you have built-in mechanisms for the existing membership to communicate its value to others?
5 - You don't appreciate the people that are trying to help you - As your community begins to form, you'll find that some members will take the lead in trying to grow your community, and help it succeed. These are your evangelists, and you MUST appreciate these special people. Empower them to promote your community to others. Showcase their contributions. And above all else, say THANK YOU.
6 - You don't give a damn about the people you are trying to reach - Confession time. Out of all the people that I met last year that I had known online, I was most touched when I met Alaina Sheer. We were following each other on Twitter, but had barely tweeted. But when I spoke at SBMU last September, Alaina made a point to come up and introduce herself and tell me that she loved my blog and learned so much from reading it. That meant the WORLD to me! Not because it was good for my ego, but because I was so happy that I had created something that Alaina had found value in. I am honestly so grateful and thankful that each of you read this blog, and feel so privileged that you do. The last few weeks when I've been posting less due to traveling, I kept telling people I met that 'I feel so bad because I haven't posted in a few days'. Because I felt like I was letting you guys down by not having new posts up.
To me, this is the key to successful online communities. You honestly have to give a damned about the people that are in your community. You really do have to CARE about the people that you want to reach. If you don't, and instead view your potential community as a group of people to monetize, then your efforts are doomed from the start.
So before you start your online community-building effort, think about where you are, and where you want to be. Is the goal to make money, or is the goal to create a group of happy people like Anna, Heather, Ryan, CB and Drew are in the above pic?
Hint: Give people a reason to come together as an excited and passionate community, and the monetization issue will take care of itself.
PS: Thanks to Diane for giving me some much-needed proofreading help with this post ;)
Pic via Flickr user Shashi