Saturday, October 2, 2010

Building Online Communities in a Tribal Universe

There's been a lot of demand lately for community building in all categories. This is for a reason, the thought of having a community that rallies around your product or service is very attractive. Heck, it's like shooting fish in a barrel from a CRM stand point.

But I think we're kidding ourselves to think that we can continue to lure consumers into "community environments" without getting financially soaked and forever struggling to retain the..well...retention platform.

Community implies a wrapper and a place. The thought of creating "sticky" environments and sending media to see what sticks is no longer the game. We've evolved...

Some important observations on communities online:
  • Communities are fleeting. They assemble and disband sometimes within a few minutes.
  • Communities are pull-based and non-committal. Needs based on search queries. With so much information available for free, your proposition needs to be attractive, achievable (in the case of a contest) and without strings attached.
  • Consumers want instant gratification. If your community proposition means they need to sign up for something, then the value proposition needs to represent an instant value exchange.

It's our job to work within this transient behavior. It's also important to seriously consider what you are trying to achieve and whether the cost involved in building a potential ghost town is worth the risk. In many cases we're smarter to leverage existing communities, the ones that live and die by the principals of community - not product.

Applying the concept of editorial calendars to your media strategy is one way to succeed in this newer "tribal" marketing game.

Re-thinking the role of community in retention strategies is necessary to stay on top of the moving herds.