Why/When should a company decide to invest in an online community?

This is often a very difficult question. Developing a specific community platform is often a lot of work, and costs tons of money. A community needs some time to grow, you have to nurture it the right way.

These uncertainties make it difficult for marketeers, creative developers to convince decision makers (CEO, company managers) of the use of an on line community and how a community can help the company to book more profit. This doesn’t mean that the community directly makes the profit, often the community gives the company a stronger brand which indirectly gives more profit. So you will never have exact figures on how much a community can bring by to the profits of a company.

In my opinion, some companies are obligated to have a good on line community I’m talking about companies who have a close relationship with the consumer. For example end product sellers (tech stuff, clothing, software, …), service providers (tv/radio stations, …). For most of those companies an on line community can only mean better customer relationship. Consumers want to get rid of their frustrations, needs, joy for the product. An on line community is a good medium to give the consumers the opportunity to have that voice. Can you imagine a product like this wordpress without a community ? No, I can’t 😉

Why keep managers the skeptic attitude towards communities?
Most managers want results on a short term period (personal achievements), sometimes a community can give you that. Think about community viral games. But mostly an on line community gives you positive results on the long term. So my suggestion for idea makers, and creative thinkers. Try to convince your company of a very small community game. Something viral, let them see the power of the community. Don’t start right a way with fora and logins, … start small. From that you slowly build credibility with the decision makers and make them ready for a real on line community.

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