As companies try to build a vibrant and healthy online community for their businesses many are seeing their efforts fail to produce less-than-exciting results. The following discusses six reasons why many online communities fail to deliver the value the business was looking for.
1. Money Making from the community is you primary driver
The most effective approach for dooming a community-building effort online is to focus on making a profit from the community before the community has even been engaged. Companies that think this way usually build a pseudo community site or set up a company page on a social networking site and wait for the community to join into their quest to make money.
Let’s look at the normal approach to Facebook followed by many firms. The company creates a Facebook page but does not actively engage with or offers little to no feedback to the visitors of the page. Very quickly at least half of the posts/comments/content created by others reflects anti-company sentiment. People who visit the page can sense what little effort the company is putting into using this page as a way to communicate with customers, and they are react negatively to the page.
Solution: 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 milked for profit, so make sure that your community-building efforts have a clear utility benefit built in for your visitors and 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. No clear value proposition for your community
What value do your community efforts create for members; if you don’t know the answer to this question then you are in trouble. If you aren’t creating value for your members, or you’re offering no advantage for your members to connect with others via your community, then they won’t.
Solution: Ensure that members can easily identify the value that your community offers them. Make sure that the value created is easily communicated to others. Remember not all community value needs to happen online or in static feedback spaces like blogs and twitter. Webinars and other personal interactive forums add strength to the community experience
3. Members needs to be told that your community exists
Having the most wonderful and innovative site full of amazing and valuable content, is a wasted investment in time and money if no-one knows about it. No successful community site is an island, so don’t view your community as being in a silo.
Solution: Make an effort to get the word out about your community site, especially when it’s first launched. Think about the people whom you would like to see on your site, and interact with them, invite them to join your community wherever they now. The key is, to interact with these people in their space, and that will give them an incentive to visit yours. Leave thoughtful comments, interact with them but don’t fill their space up with SPAM; thoughtfully let them know what you are creating, and that will encourage them to check out your efforts.
4. Members must have the ability to share/promote content
As you grow your community, enable people to tell others about your efforts. Many companies don’t put much thought into making their content easy to share from their web sites or blogs.
Solution: Offer members the ability to bookmark your site and quickly and easily share your content on social sites such as Digg and Twitter. Always be thinking about how you can help your members share content on their sites, because it’s a great way to extend the reach of your online community.
5. The evangelists and the people growing your community are important to your business
As your community-building efforts begin to take hold, some people will “buy in” and want to create and will help push your efforts forward. Maybe they will help promote you to others, or maybe they will take a lead in helping organize and share information within the group. A major way to stymie your online community’s growth is to ignore these people. Think about it, they are effectively doing your job for you. They are policing, promoting, and contributing to your online community.
Solution: Thank them. Put the spotlight on the leaders in your online community, and show them that you appreciate their efforts. A simple thank-you email works wonders. Don’t ignore them; treat them as if they were royalty, because as far as your online-community-building efforts are concerned, that’s exactly what they are. Invite others to drive the content of your site, set minimalist rules and let their creative endeavours add value to the community
6. The people you are trying to reach don’t really matter to you
This is self explanatory, but at the end of the day you have to actually care about the people who want “in” to your online community. Do not view these people as “eyeballs” and “hits” to be “monetized,” this is the quickest way to doom the community.
Solution: The community is a reflection on your brand and your business, remember you create this community to improve your engagement, now that you have built the relationship, manage it, evolve it and most importantly engage it.