Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What is a 'successful' online community?

Great quotes from Pat Coyle, marketing guru for the Indianapolis Colts, on what a 'successful' online community means to the Colts' new social-networking site, MyColts:
When you look at this site you see what fans are made of. You read stories about how they became fans…how they experience the Colts, and you see there families and their pets and their friends. You get a little window into their lives. Sure, some of the stuff you see is off the wall and even a little sophomoric. But many folks in our community are doing what I hoped they would do. They are CONNECTING with other people and forming new friendships.

It is these friendships that makes the Colts experience more fun. It is these friendships that will cause more and more folks to become connected and make Colts games into rituals, habits that will be hard to break. It’s these friendships that make Sundays the best day of the week. It is these friendships that will help them in other areas of life as well and on other days of the week.

It’s all about community. That’s where the value is for the FANS.

Sites that place an emphasis on attempting to monetize its community are almost always doomed to fail, because they have put THEIR best interests above that of the community they want to create or grow. Look at how MySpace is slowing down. Think the massive amounts of advertising now on the site, and how MySpace is spending more and more effort attempting to dictate the actions of its users (only use widgets from companies that are paying us), has anything to do with that? Contrast that with how Threadless continues to put the community above all else, and still shows no signs of slowing down.

The best online communities are the ones that let users easily connect, as well as create, exchange, and share relevant content. Communities form when users have a sense of ownership in something larger than themselves. Communities do not form around the idea of being monetized.

Pat closes with an interesting question: "Now, how can we get sponsors to invest their TIME as well as their money to engage with our community?"


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Anonymous said...

This is an amazing post, Mack!!

I often talk to clients about how you can't create a community. You can join communities, attract communities, or best yet, support a community.

It sounds like this guy gets it in spades. Any chance he will quit and take a marketing job in a big Canadian firm anytime soon????

nat said...

Spot on. I love the line..."It’s all about community. That’s where the value is for the FANS."
I think the interesting point from this is for social media to work - it needs to tap into a logical value point for the consumer. Be that connection with the community (e.g. other fans), a connection to more information, or perhaps counter-intuitively a connection to a quicker, less personal customised transaction (say for paying bills).

Anonymous said...

100% agree. Good stuff. Mack, don't you find these lessons--which are pivotal--to be basic? Know what I mean? It's amazing to me how tough it is for so many co's (and bravo to the Colts, btw). Remember the first post I had over at Daily Fix last year(the one on "Goin' Social: Hard because it's simple")? It's these simple lessons (like share, contribute, community) that define this new era...and yet they're not at all new. Wild, right?

Gavin Heaton said...

Much of this reminds me of being a kid ... when my Nanna lived in what was then an outlying suburb of Sydney and she knew everyone and their mothers and their cousins. While I did not live close by, the whole neighbourhood knew me. I was recognised by the connections that I had, by who I belonged to (and with). It was an old fashioned community ... and while we may have lost some of this from our urban landscapes, we are finding it again (desiring, needing and demanding) it online.
And as you say, Mack, the community was about a shared investment of time. Money is a substitute and a poor one at that.

Mack Collier said...

"And as you say, Mack, the community was about a shared investment of time. Money is a substitute and a poor one at that."

Yep and that's why I think you are going to see social-networking sites begin to fall out of favor in the next year or two. Because companies are wanting to enter into this space because 'there's big money to be made'. But again, online communities do not form around the idea of being monetized. As the built-in benefits are shrinking for users at launch, they will begin to spend less and less time on new sites.