ICYMM: Communities Are What You Need – Trust Me!

ICYMM: In Case You Missed Me - things with me or about me elsewhere in the internetz.

I have been saying for a very, very long time (back in 2001 I wrote a research note for Gartner, and in 2003 Michael Maoz and I spoke about this already at the conferences… and, oh yeah – in the late 1980s when I was moderating Compuserve forums I gave an interview for PCWeek about them – and I am sure there’s more, but you are bored of hearing me say how awesome I am — even though I am) that communities are the end goal for business.

The real power of the social networks is not the ability to share kitten pictures or news or baby pictures with people we loathed in high school but love now.  The power is the power of aggregating people of kin minds into communities.

Moving communities from offline to online is the greatest trick ever pulled by the internet.  We moved from an average of 12 communities participation per person in 2002 (just 4 online) to 48 communities participation per person (26 online).

The aggregation of power and knowledge (the reason for communities to exist) go back to the caves of Altamira and the fires that gathered people around to share stories (thanks Fred Studer for that image, well done).

I recently had a google hangout interview / webinar / something-else-you-want-to-call-it with my friend Sheridan Gaenger of Helpshift to talk about communities and how they are changing businesses.  We talked for a while, and it was one of the greatest conversations about communities I recall from recent years.

Pay a listen to it, or read the blog post that Sheridan wrote about it.  If you are interested in communities you will not be disappointed.

When  you are done, come back and talk to me about your thoughts please.  I’d love to know what you are doing and thinking in regards to communities.

disclosure: Helpshift was a client once some time ago.  I also sit in the board of advisers and own equity in the company as a result of this relationship (and, no, did not get paid to do this).  The interesting thing though, HelpShift does not sell community software, nor do they benefit if you implement or use communities.  Its part of the power of communities: spark conversations that broaden the topics you are interested in, watch what happens.  Inbound.  Funny...

4 Replies to “ICYMM: Communities Are What You Need – Trust Me!”

  1. Hi Esteban:

    What I personally found missing in your referenced talk is when and for what specific purpose a brand should even consider extending an online community to their consumers. For most brands, the lack of relevant 3rd-party online communities is far from reason enough. Out of curiosity, what percentage of businesses do you believe would benefit from extending their own online community to their consumers?

    If at all, and for what purpose, a brand should extend an online community is vital to select the best technology and define and measure relevant success metrics. B2B and B2C businesses also have very different considerations as do online communities focused internally on staff.

    All brands need to deal with pre-sales and post-sales support (questions) and an online community may be best for that. I however believe that online communities are often not the best delivery for that purpose.

    Some brands could effectively leverage ideation with their consumers and partners to better create and evolve their products and services.

    Some brands believe that it’s best to give their consumers a place to openly complain and sometimes give praise. I have mixed feelings about this and believe it’s often not such a good idea for many brands.

    A TINY percentage of brands are such that their consumers have any interest to “engage” with them and each other. Think Harley Davidson and Apple.

    What other purposes do you see for a brand extending an online community to consumers? For a B2B business, I also can see value if they are able to use a community to create credibility in subject matter relevant to their business.

    Bests, Chuck


    1. my best possible short answer (since i am behind, but don’t want to leave it unanswered forever)?

      i cannot foresee a biz that does not need communities. just like i cannot foresee a biz that wants to manage their own communities.

      then again, you and i went back and forth on this many times, so when i say it is up to the biz to train and let loose their people as community members – not official representatives of the company, to share knowledge as they see fit (within the specified trained compliance implications in mind) I mean it.

      the timeframe i am thinking may be shortsighted and too short – but i cannot see a biz not planning / working towards this in the world we live in.

      more later, i hope 🙂


  2. Wow…Sorry, but am I the only one out there who thinks it’s crazy talk to think that all companies should extend communities to their consumers? I also called out more for contemplation that did not receive a response. Is this a “community” I am posting on or just a place for Esteban to post his musings?

    Regarding getting staff involved in 3rd-party communities relevant to their brand: If they totally disassociate their opinions expressed from their company, then sure. Otherwise, I believe it has to be within definitive company guidelines. Just one off-color or inaccurate comment with material financial implications will quickly destroy any potential value of letting staff openly engage.


  3. The lack of discourse on this important topic leaves me to believe that this blog, at least this post, is only read by Analysts and vendors that are most concerned about selling products and services and apparently have minimal concern for helping technology buyers make good decisions. Of course, disagreeing with my position on this “online community” topic is welcomed and valuable, especially if done so at a tangible level conducive to help technology buyers.

    From my perspective, one of the flaws with this existing Analyst/Vendor ecosystem is the natural and understandable focus to make money for themselves rather than to engage in open, respectful and sometimes conflicting discourse that does not clearly advance this instinctual agenda of personal advancement.

    In the end, technology buyers and technology advancements with real value is what suffers when the focus fails to be on helping technology buyers.

    I absolutely respect Esteban and what many Analysts bring to the table at a macro level. I am sorry if this is coming off as harsh, but yet once again I find myself frustrated with the continued lack of practical, real world discussions at a level that actually helps technology buyers make holistic decisions best for their organization. Unfortunately nothing has changed since I was a CIO of a big bank some 15 years ago. Now as a vendor I still don’t like it.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: