This statement has come up a number of times from clients, on blogs, in conversations. As with the viral question, the answer is always qualified – you can, but you have to work at it and get a little bit of luck. A spontaneous outburst of community in a place a brand wants it to be is rare (by this, I mean they feel like they have some control); it needs work to build a trusted place.
So it’s good to see 2 posts with lessons learnt from building online forums. The first, from Interwebworld, tells us what they learnt from a failed first attempt and what they did differently. The second, from Problogger, adds a further 6 lessons from building up an online forum. Neither of these are from a corporate brand point of view, but the lessons are still applicable. My favourites:
- Invite an audience. You have to go find your influencers, your fans (and sometimes your detractors) and invite them into the conversation.
- Ban trolls. Have a clear, upfront policy on your attitude to trolls. Stick to it consistently. Protect the community. But remember, a troll is not just someone who does not like your product. Open debate can be helpful.
- Incentives. Sometimes, you have to offer up a little something. It never hurts.
And a further one for brands – building a community is not just about a campaign. It has a far longer lifespan than that and thought needs to be given to funding the effort beyond the current years marketing budget.