Businesses don’t realize what communities are all about. They don’t understand what the social digital revolution is all about. Business let their marketing and/or IT department experiment, throwing lots of money at it without a clear vision on the benefits for the company.
Business communities fail because they put their business upfront and not the community. Value for the business does not equal value for the user. That’s why even well-build communities don’t gain traction with its users. Too much whistles and bells make communities too difficult to understand. Users will come once, say “waaaw” and “too difficult” and never return. Relevance for the business can only be achieved when they feel like stakeholders in their company whose opinions really matter. Off course, it’s not only about user opinions. It’s the conversation that creates value for both, the users and the company.
The technology is indeed important but it’s only a means to achieve the goal of the community. In fact, it’s so easy to set up an online community but that’s just like seeding a lawn —lots of watering and fertilizing has to happen next. Having a dedicated staff to continuously search ways to inspire and engage other business employees to actively participate in communities can be a tremendous benefit.
So, when a company understands that the focus on communities is not technologically driven but socially driven, perhaps they shouldn’t spend all their money on the technology creating communities happen but more on an acquisition & retention strategy. A community only gets as big as the passionate users who engage in it. Only 5% of the Wikipedia users are responsible for more than 50% of the contributions. All users benefit from it.
Therefore, business should realize that top down implementation isn’t the right way to implement a business community. Just guessing what the community should do, it won’t work. You will have to empower the business employees and all business lines to define your community proposition. When launching a community small and simple with the single intent of letting members tell you how to grow it bigger and better, and not by guessing, you stimulate the conversation in, over and about your business. Unlike most business processes, communities don’t work when people are obliged to participate in them. When you touch the right nerve, users will be willing to give you all the information you need to be more efficient, productive and loved… When you ask them to participate and they see business owners listen to the comments on business products and processes so they get improved, your community will flourish.
So how can you gain traction with your customers? Hold a couple of rules in mind:
1. The focus of your community is people. People with a voice that want to be heard.
2. The focus of your business community should be collaboration & co-creation, not only information.
3. Don’t spend all your money on technology but also on people running the community.
Activation & retention are the two main objectives of these passionate people.
4. Business owners should listen, participate and use the information to improve business products and processes.