I have been commenting about this issue on various blogs, and have a couple of “community” examples here, here and here – but based on Jeremiah’s post today, and Doc Searles post it is time to write my own.
I am (for this business) an old school kind of guy. I subscribe to The Cluetrain Manifesto – hence the title of this blog.
The COMMUNITY is owned by the participants. I think that brands trying to build their own community (with few exceptions) is sheer folly. (I do not include brand sponsored discussion forums for technical help/support)
I believe that brands cannot have conversations, and for the most part corporations struggle to have conversations. Conversations do not pass through the indignity of legal, policy and PR before coming out of your mouth.
Brands can’t participate in the community, but people working for brands CAN. They just have to be helpful and behave (and talk) like human beings. This requires putting the interests of the community ahead of your own brand/corporate interests – which I think is what makes it so difficult. (Get agreement on this important issue before dipping your toe in.)
All major brands/companies should be listening to their relevant communities – and if they have the stomach for it – trying to participate in a human way.