Lots of conversations this weeks about building online communities: forums, weblog networks, mailing list, what have you. All with organizations having a vested, commercial interest in growing a community.
While they expressed skepticism about a community gathering around their commercial interest, I wasn’t concerned.
- It’s already happening.
A group of people somewhere are already talking about your products. Really, they are.
- It’s in everyone’s best interest
It’s in Corvette’s best interest to have a fan club. It’s in Apple’s best interest to have support forums. It lowers direct support costs while increasing passion. It’s in the customers best interest to show off their expertise and passions (perhaps getting time commerce as well).
- In many cases, a community with a for-profit business behind it is more maintainable (see #2).
Those with a horse-in-the-race are of course have the most to gain by a growing community.
I’m less concerned about a church v state separation in these communities. Those involved will determine the right balance – and it may change over time.
The more important bit is being a person talking to other people rather than a Marketer or a Salesman talking to Consumers.