Lowering The Cost and Risk of Building Community

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shopping mallIt’s good to see brand marketers are working to produce some interesting work that ties TV together with online social communities. This post from Dave Deal titled Listening through communities shows off efforts by Levi and Kraft Crystal Light.

It’s great to see marketers start to understand why community matters, and it’s why we’re seeing investment in sites like these. Both are nicely designed sites that offer the promise of community.

Project 501The problem is that huge brands like these need to be attracting the attention of large audiences to make their marketing efficient, and trying to create large, new communities from scratch is both high cost and high risk.

In the physical world, you don’t try to create another shopping mall so people can come to your store, you take your store to the existing shopping mall so you can tap into an existing community. The mall shoppers are not going to go to a remote store in large numbers because it’s too much hassle.UPumpitup

By that logic, brands should not expect people to leave where they are now to travel to these new spaces. If the people are hanging out in MySpace and Facebook, why not build community there, or at least make that a major part of the your community building effort?

I looked, but could not find ways these sites link into MySpace/Facebook. If they are not built to connect to these huge social networks then they are making a mistake. Perhaps they are, but I couldn’t find out how. It would be interesting to find out if they have plans to connect into these communities.

I looked to see what others thought about the build versus join question. The question has been asked and debated in some depth. While there seems to be a strong leaning towards “it depends”, I think you have to go with the economics of community building.

Building large communities from scratch is hard, costly and risky. Anything you can do to lower the cost (hassle, time, etc) of connection and participation is incredibly important to building community. A well thought out strategy that makes it easy for people to connect to these new spaces from their existing hang outs will reduce the cost and risk of community building.

The social web is a distributed community with people in lots of places and increasingly they expect the content to come to them. RSS, embeddable players, and Facebook apps are training people that they can get what they want, wherever they want it. And that place is where they hang out now. Start there, and then give them a good reason to come visit your place.

If brand marketers don’t start getting this, they will spend lots of money and end up with lots of disappointments.

[tags]brands, community, social marketing, Levi, Krystal Light, Razor Fish[/tags]

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