InkPop is one of the best branded communities. It avoids the errors that sink most branded community efforts. Lets review what HarperCollins got right...
1) A Great Community Concept
HarperCollins got the concept perfect. They didn't make a community about HarperCollins,nor try to target the entire audience of people that read their books. They targeted a small, specific, group of individuals with a strong common interest (teenage girls that love to read and write fiction). That's quite a specific group compared to the entire potential audience. By focusing on a very specific audience they attracted the very specific audience.
2) Subtle Branding
HarperCollins didn't brand the community as HarperCollins Connect, they gave the community a unique name and limited mentions of the brand. They allowed a unique identity to develop. This opened up their potential audience not just to their audience, but the audience of their competitors too (and all teenage girls who love to read and write novels).
3) Used their Unfair Big-Brand Powers
They used their big-brand advantage to offer something other communities couldn't - live interaction with HarperCollins editors and the opportunity to get a novel published. Too often brands neglect the advantages they inherently have and create a me-too community. Launching a community on a brand can be restrictive, but it can also be a great opportunity compared with other communities.
4) Small Launch
HarperCollins began with a small launch in 2009. They didn't issue a press release announcing the launch of the community until they already had 10,000 members. Even better, they used their press releases to announce major milestones the community could be proud of.
They gave the community something to do, write and share novels. This isn't just a community of interest, it's a community of practice too. They highlighted the best contributions of the community. They invited the community to help and rate each other's contributions. There is always something fresh in the community.
Could they do anything better?
A few things. They hide the interactions of the community within the platform. They would benefit from showing the latest interactions in a prominent place on the platform. They have a few too many forum categories and they lack a clear content narrative to follow. They would benefit significantly from having a central news page.
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