Best practices for online customer communities

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Communispace, a company that builds private communities for corporations, put out a press release for the 10 Best Practices for Online Customer Communities. Private label social networks and communities that are built around brands & products are starting to become more commonplace as companies begin to realize just how powerful they can be.
The press release put out by Communispace is packed with some good information but there were a few things that I disagreed with.
First of all, I’m curious why the company does not have a blog and they chose to put out this information as a press release. I am not questioning this company or their knowledge, it’s obvious by how successful they seem to be that they know what they are doing when it comes to building small private communities. It is just a bit weird to see a company in this industry using press releases instead of a company blog or even an online magazine to spread information.
The thing I disagreed with from their 10 best practices is that the social networks should be private and small (under 400 people).

Invite the right people, keep it private and small. When you find people who have a common interest and put them together in a community (fewer than 400 people), their energy explodes. Screen people to uncover interests, passions, and willingness to participate, and avoid using only simple demographic and geographic criteria. Second, keep the community private. More of the right people are likely to participate in private communities than public communities because they feel more comfortable in an environment where they know what they say will only be seen by other identified community members, the facilitator and company representatives.

It is clear that the reason why they do this is so they can communicate with customers and gather critical market research. While that’s better than nothing I don’t like the idea of limiting a social network to a handful of what they call the “right people”. I also think that this is the wrong reason for building a community around your products. I think its better for companies to allow anyone to use their social networks. While you can still gather the market research, this way you are building an army of brand evangelists. Not only that, I can not even imagine a social network with under 400 people being active enough to really keep anyone’s interest. Communispace seems to be just trying to satisfy marketers without considering the whole community of people that a company should be catering to.
[Via: Will McInnes]

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

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  • bill dowling

    I think you have hit on two ideas that seem to oppose each other inclusion and exclusion. Real communication comes from true listening. If you limit new imput you will limit the acceptance by a broader circle of thought thus contributing too the staleness of ideas. Use a swamp as example of what happens when fresh water is not put into the swamp it’s inhabitants die. If new people are not allowed in to the community the same results. So is real marketing served buy 400 people with similar taste or does it make sense to watch how the stew changes and respond appropriately? Does anyone remember the 5&10 stores. What was the name of that company? NOTHING CHANGES IF NOTHING CHANGES.

  • Charles Verge

    It sounds like most of their target market is not companies with blogs. To me it makes more sense to do a press release vs a blog.