Brands Must Use Their Unfair Advantage To Build Online Communities

March 17, 2011 Comments Off

It's hard for brands to build successful communities. Especially if they're competing against existing communities.

You can only succeed by using your unfair advantage. You can only succeed by bringing something awesome to the party, something no amateur community can match. You have to offer a community environment which is better or entirely unique amongst other online communities. Your members have to feel like you're serving them, not them serving you. 

This might include: 

  • Direct impact. People want to feel that what they do matters a great deal. Brands can offer people a chance to have a direct impact on products and issues they care about. It might be an impact on the marketing plan, an impact on the products, an impact on some special issue of the industry. Call for opinions then make changes based upon those opinions. Take those opinions to the people in the industry who matter and make something happen.
  • Ability to reach cool people. Your brand probably has relationships with important people in your industry and sector. You can do interviews with them, invite them to provide content for the community or, even better, even them to directly participate in the community. A community in which top professional participate will be huge draw for others to participate.
  • Exclusivity. I'm a member of a exclusive community for a major brand. It feels good. Only the best people get in. We come together because the brand has clout. Your brand has clout too. You can leverage your brand to attract high-level people to talk about issues they care about. Then you can let them decide who else to get in, keep it cool and exclusive. 
  • Put on the best events. Your brand can put on the best events. Activision dominates the World of Warcraft community through it's amazing events. Many organizations have a successful history of building a community by putting on the most remarkable events, speakers, entertainment at their events. These events can be online or offline. 
  • Job opportunities. Brands can hire motivated and knowledgable employees directly from the community. Brands can advertise job opportunities their and look to see their history of contributions to the community when making a hiring decision. 
  • Free products. Brands can offer community members exclusive access to try out new products and possibly even give out a few to some top members of the community. They can proactive solicit the opinions of members on products. 
  • Exclusive news. Brands can release exclusive news in a community first. They can make the community the place where people find out the information before anyone else. They can deliberately drip-feed news to members. It can be industry news, product news or people news. If your community always gets the news first, people will want to join.

There are many more. Find the advantage you can offer that no other community can offer. What can your organization do to gain an unfair advantage on other communities? It's not going to be competitions and incentives to join. It's going to be related to leveraging your brand, utilizing your resources and using the initiative to make things happen.


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