Almost Every Branded Community Fails – Some Case Studies
I recently searched for “online
community” on a marketing site. It gave me a long list of organizations which
have launched a community over the last five years.
Here is a
quick summary of the first 12.
EasyJet launched a community which
was actually a blog. The link no longer works.
Arsenal FC launched a community with
10Duke to 'add value' to existing memberships. The link no longer works
BBC created a community
called Soup for aspiring comedians. The website is
still there, but the site has been closed to new contributors.
created a community for post offices. The link no longer works.
Beta launched DaddyBeGood to be
the Mumsnet of fathers. A famous cricketer appeared in ads promoting the site.
The site underwent a rethink a year later and has
Earlier this year LurPak relaunched BakeClub. Members upload pictures of what they have baked and tag them on
Twitter/Instagram with #bakeclub. The site is getting about 5 new contributions
PBS launched PBS Learning
Media a community for
teachers. Today it’s a site that features resources but no place for members to
Sony launched VAIO Nation for new
and established artists to share skills and tips. Today the link has vanished.
EasyJet launched a customer research
community which began well and attracted 1000 members. Today
it no longer
seems possible to register for the community. There
is a GetSatisfaction community for EasyJet which receives a few comments a day.
Beta tried again in 2011, this time launching High50 a community for
those 50+. The site is still going today, but
lacks anywhere to interact and none of the articles receives comments or are
Free Magazine launched a community,
bizarrely, for people that use the London Northern Line. The link no
Phones4U launched a ‘fun community
where members can do surveys’ called TheUBar. This community
will let you enter your full information and then demand you answer a series of
questions until you get one wrong. You’ll then be told you can’t participate
any more (this is very common in research-based communities)
There are 871 results for “online
community” on the BrandRepublic site. The ones above are the first 12. I’d
guess that the remaining 859 results feature a 95% to 100% failure rate.
Why is nearly every branded community a
This may not be true (I suspect it is),
but we can say for sure that almost every organization that announces the launch of a new community fails.
The mindset that leads an organization
to announce a community launch via a press release is also one that leads to
failure. It requires lots of promotion, 1000 members overnight, sets high
expectations, and fails to convert a rush of interest into long-term
participation. We covered this in a free eBook two
the opposite of how communities develop.
Once participation levels drop,
interest from the organization wanes and the website disappears a year or so
later. Dell’s Digital Nomads was a
There are a number of other common
mistakes. Here are a few:
- Don’t develop your own platform. Most of
the examples above launched their community on their own, bespoke, platform.
This is a mistake. Use an existing platform (Lithium, Yammer, Jive, Teligent,
Socious, Ning, HigherLogic, Vbulletin, Drupal Commons, Vanilla Forums, and many
more are all better platforms than you will develop.
- Don’t hire a marketing agency. Almost
every example above hired a marketing agency. Don’t do this. Few marketing
agencies have ever built a successful, genuine, community. They’re expensive
and take a promotion-driven approach.
- Don’t create a content-driven site. Content
is great for readers, but typically bad for communities – especially when it
displaces the areas where members can interact with one another. The evidence
of the term ‘site editor’ for many of the above communities indicates the
- Don’t go big quickly. Big
launches don’t succeed. They attract a lot of members who get a bad first
impression and then prove difficult to convert into regulars. Start small, grow
want to get this right, you can do one of two things.
First, you can learn as much as
possible about communities. There are plenty of resources, training courses, and books to help you.
Don’t build a community until you really know a lot about communities.
Second, you can get help from community
specialists. There are numerous people around, ourselves
included, that focus solely upon communities.
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