Trend 10: Increasing Formation of Communities

Jan 22, 2011 Comments Off by

Birds of a feather flock together, especially online as macro and micro-communities form around topics of interest. As trust develops, communities can become markets. Business needs to learn how to connect, belong, add value and be valued.

As early as 1969, the computer network that became the Internet was used by groups of academics at different universities in the USA to share their thoughts and views on research projects. This usage grew amongst academics globally, and when the Internet was opened up for commercial use in the 1990s, there were already thousands of small groups discussing specific topics of interest.

These groups or communities have continued to form and flourish. How they meet online has evolved with changing technology and platforms. The early days of UseNet newsgroups have now been replaced by groups that form on peer to peer networks, email lists, special interest websites and on large search engine and social media platforms.

Facebook Groups allow users to join a group and show their support for its purpose or cause. As of February 2010, Google was indexing 620 million Facebook groups, which is larger than the number of Facebook members.

Yahoo and Google both operate groups that are more functional for a special purpose community. At September 2010, Yahoo with 115 million members has over 2 million groups, while Google appears to have over 20 million groups.

LinkedIn Groups are an amazing business-to-business networking tool and offer rapid communications and marketing opportunities to members.

Crass and ineffective marketers crash their way into online groups and communities, thinking they can self-promote and advertise heavily and sell products.

Smart online marketers find, join or create community groups, contribute to the community and over time strive to build trusted relationships within these groups. As a result, the online community can become the marketplace for the trusted community advisor who now becomes a trusted supplier.

There are typically dozens, if not thousands, of groups serving almost any niche community concept you can imagine.  Smart business strategies involve the identification and selection of niche communities, sincere value adding to the community, and cross-fertilizing between groups.

The key is to engage with the community, contribute to it, add value and create harmony. You can dominate a community by your valuable participation, not by the use or abuse of your marketing muscles.

Questions To Ponder

  1. What communities do your customers belong to online? Where do they go online? How can you find out?
  2. What questions do your customers ask others online? Who is answering the questions of your customers? Who is going to become their next ‘trusted advisor’?
  3. How can you become the ‘trusted advisor’ for new prospective customers in their online communities?

Go to next trend: Increasing Corporate Ecosystems

Go to previous trend: More Personal Connectivity

Strategies & Roadmap, The Big Picture, Trends
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