Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 13, 2009

Why do you want an Online Community?

I can not tell you the number of books that I have read that advise determining objectives, and writing down goals. For a long time I just did not get the whole infatuation with this type of excercise, but then I started managing online communities, and suddenly I get it. I would say that the majority of online communities were started because a tech consultant or a PR firm said “Hey your brand needs a community”, and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, and they have a community. BUT WHY? A community with no purpose will fail every time.

Let me explain- a farmer does not wake up one day and decide he wants sheep. He says to his wife “I think I’m gonna get some sheep”. She looks at him like he is out of his mind and asks the question “why?”. Oh that this question was asked more in boardrooms! What is the purpose of buying and raising the sheep? A great Sheep resource is and he had this to say

The reason(s) for keeping sheep will have a significant impact on the breed(s) chosen and the manner in which the sheep are fed and managed.

Please look at this again, and see that it is very clear in stating that the purpose behind raising sheep will determine what kind of sheep to buy, how they are raised, what they are fed, and how they are managed. No farmer in his right mind just goes and buys some sheep and seriously expects to make a living off of these sheep. A farmer like this would be out of business so fast the sheep would be laughing at him.

See the parallel? See where this is going? So many companies today in an attempt to be “on the edge” wake up one day and start an online  community.  They have no real objective, purpose, or goals besides sell more stuff. There is no possible way a community like this works, or is even a real community. A community takes people, real people making real connections. There are many companies that when you visit their websites now, you see the community tab, and when you visit it is dead, dead, dead! Talk about sabotaging your brand!

In the next board meeting that somebody says “we need a community”, please have the guts to ask “why?”.

There are a lot of reasons to have an online community, and we will delve into those in the next few posts! Thanks for your great feedback so far. Your comments, and encouragement has been great!

I would love for you to be involved more, here is how:

  1. Send me some information about you and I will interview you and post a profile. This is great for job seekers, and thought leaders alike.
  2. Send me your thoughts on why companies should have a community, and I may use it. (giving you much praise and adulation of course)
  3. Tell your friends about this blog and the valuable resource it is to you.
  4. Tell me what I can do to help you- looking for a star manager, looking for a community to lead, tips on raising sheep, whatever it is that you need I would love to try to help.

Thanks again, and I look forward to getting to know each of you!


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