Thursday, 30 August 2007

Communities- creating and managing them

It takes multiple interactions, over a period of time before they can trust you enough to try you out -one transaction or interface with the customer hardly ever results in the outcome we are looking for However, the challenge is, how do you continue to engage with them and build trust whilst they are making their mind up? Through this post, I make the case for creating communities as a way to sustain this engagement.

Wikipedia says- "A community is a social group of organisms sharing an environment, normally with shared interests"

The benefits of building and managing communities are relatively easy to explain. If you can attract a group of your audience to continue to interact with you, you can learn from them about your products , your competition, and, as you build trust over multiple interactions, have a higher chance of influencing them to be more favourable towards you. Think of this as a club run by you- the members in this club are your audiences.

But the difficult part is, what's in it for them? For them to engage with you, you need to be able to give them something they are interested in. In general, this tends to be access to something - perhaps access to expertise they are looking for , perhaps access to other people who are in similar situations as they are in (your other customers), perhaps the feeling of belonging to an exclusive club (CEO/CIO conclaves), perhaps making them feel as if they were pioneers in something …

In general, your start-point tends to be subjects that are relevant to the audience that you want to be associated with, and create a "club" experience that brings some new insight (something they don't know already) to them. The criticality lies in your ability to invest in building this community- this is one of those, longer run, not immediate impact things, but the benefits over the longer run are apparent to see.

By the way, creating a community does not necessarily need to be a start from scratch. There may be existing congregations with high focus on your target audience that you could work with, and/or you may already have a community and not know it- the best place to look is amongst the users of your products/services- which is why customer forums tend to be so irresistible.

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