Is Mass Evidence Building?

by Jay Deragon on 12/20/2008


The mass of evidence builds. The old are now writing about the new. The new are writing about the old that get it. Then there are those writing about why businesses don’t get it.

From the WSJ: One of the hot investments for businesses these days is online communities that help customers feel connected to a brand. But most of these efforts produce fancy Web sites that few people ever visit. The problem: Businesses are focusing on the value an online community can provide to themselves, not the community.

David Gammel hits the nail on the head in his post over on High Context Consulting on “Three reasons Branded Online Communities Fail.”

The Three Reasons?

  • Focusing on the technology over the value of the community to its members;
  • Failure to assign experienced staff to develop the community;
  • Poor or no metrics for measuring success

The Wall Street Journal article quoted by David says, “Businesses say that their primary objectives are generating word-of-mouth marketing and increasing customer loyalty. Yet the metric that businesses use most often to measure success is the number of visits to the site. Moran points out that there isn’t much of a connection between what businesses want and what they’re measuring. Better metrics might be rankings in Google or the number of inbound links.”

The Experience blog says: Social media tools are the building blocks for communities, but communities are more than the sum of their social media parts. If we look to real world communities as a metaphor for virtual ones, social media functions–forums, blogs, micro-blogs, ratings, profiles, friend lists, widgets, collaborative tools, and the like–are the buildings, roads, and utilities, but if no one moves in (or everyone leaves), there is no community. A site rife with Web 2.0 tools that go unused is like a ghost town–empty of life and uninviting to anyone who chances to wander in. As in the real world, a virtual community isn’t characterized by its components but by its people.

A site may offer every social media tool available and still not create a successful community. The hard fact is that many community-building efforts fall short of intended goals. The reason for this is that while you can strive for a community and may succeed at a community, you cannot simply create a community. As Content Ninja says, “We cannot build a community. It just happens … What we can do is build an infrastructure where the community can live.”

Eric Schmidt, Google CEO said “One of the things to say,very clearly,is that social networks as a phenomenon are very real.If you are of a certain age,you sort of dismiss this as college kids or teenagers. But it is very real.”

The people wonder what is all the fuss about when fundamentally people have been discussing human relations since the beginning of time.

Then people move into business roles and somehow think human relations take second seat to making money quick……this mentaility has breeded short term thinking, cost cutting, cover ups and poor quality products and services needing a defense which takes away energy from building relationships, value and pride in what one does and what a busienss offers.

Maybe all this social stuff is taking us back to the future when relations meant everything. The question is whether business leaders can transform their thinking and their organizations to be more relational. In other words How long will business pretend they are social rather than be real about relations.

What say you?

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