From time to time I have meetings with so-called social media consultants. When discussing new initiatives for my company one of the suggestions are often to build a corporate community or corporate social network existing of members contributions, discussions and comments.
But does corporate social networks work at all?
Types of communities
- Purposes could be sites for jobs, real estate or used cars etc.
- Position could be sites dedicated for teenagers, sites for disabled persons, sites for people with health disorders etc.
- Interest could be sites for betting, sport, beauty, music etc.
- Profession could be sites for graphical designers, programmers or a more generic site like LinkedIn.
So a company has to tap into one of the four above communities types and facilitate a space for customers and supporters to express their opinions.
The reasons why to initiate a corporate online community are
The experienced community builder Dawn Foster lists some reasons why a company should have an online community.
- You can control the conversation a little more by proactively engaging with people discussing your company’s products by facilitating discussions at your property.
- Through the community you have a great feedback mechanism that you can use for product innovation. Ask questions, hear the complaints and comments about your brand and your products.
- With a community you also have the change to grow evangelism. Some of the participants are people who really like your brand and products. They will defend you against other people talking bad about your company and gives a lot of credibility to you products with their positive attitudes.
- You can grow brand loyalty through engaged community members.
Should companies build online communities in the first place.
Corporate communities offers good potential to get closer to your customers experiences, opinions and wishes, but will people engage in a community sponsored by a large corporation other that Apple, Nike or similar top 1%?
And if they do, will they participate with anything else than negative remarks? Wouldn’t a corporate initiated community always foster a scepticism about the company sitting in the background controlling the conversation?
Some concerns about starting a dedicated corporate community are:
- The community will primarily attract the most critical people who will use the community to voice their unique problems or bad service. To control that kind of communication on your own site is of cause valuable since you can use ‘no-follow” techniques to keep these comments out of the search engines.
- The community will be dead. People don’t want to engage with the community at go another place to discuss the issues or worse they don’t care enough to discuss purposes, positions, interests or professional issues that you facilitates.
- If the community is not dead it will be silent since it takes a huge effort to initiate discussions and keep a community vibrant and alive.
So as a company you really have to plan good if you want to run a company community. You have to find a reason for people to involve with your network – purpose, position, interest or profession.
More important if you find an open spot, you have to consider how much time you can afford to spent on nurturing your network to avoid a beautiful designed community no one will ever visit more that once if ever.
There are a lot of examples of corporate communities that have failed. Do we have any great examples of the opposite and is it a good business case? Maybe it is better business to co-brand or sponsor an existing social network? Or mayby a Facebook fan page is the answer the users are spending their time there anyway.
Please share your thoughts!