Increasingly, companies are looking to create vibrant and healthy online communities for their businesses. But many companies are seeing their efforts fail or produce less-than-expected results.
Here are six reasons why many online communities never materialize, and what you can do to improve your own efforts to build online communities.
1. You think monetization up front
Probably the fastest way to doom a community-building effort online is to focus on making money off the community before it even exists. Companies that think this way usually build a community site (or slap up a page/profile on a social-networking site) and wait for the community to come so they can make money off its members.
If you look at Wal-Mart's Facebook page, you immediately notice that there's little to no feedback from Wal-Mart, and at least half of the posts/comments/content created by others reflect anti-Wal-Mart sentiment. Wal-Mart has apparently done what many companies do: It slapped up a Facebook page and has done very little to manage it since then. People who visit the page can sense what little effort Wal-Mart is putting into using this page as a way to communicate with customers, and they are reacting negatively.
How to fix it: Don't put the cart before the horse. When creating your online community, keep in mind the best interests of the people you are trying to reach. Communities don't form around the idea of being monetized, so make sure that your community-building efforts have a clear utility built in for its members. Understand that monetization can't effectively happen until the community exists, and the community won't exist unless there's something in it for the people you are trying to reach.
2. You don't create a clear value proposition for your community
If you cannot immediately identify what value your community efforts create for members, then you are in trouble. If you aren't creating something of value for your members, or if there is no advantage for your members to connect with others, then they won't.
Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.
LinkedIn: Mack Collier