Catalyze a Virtual Community
Many companies think that building a virtual community is as simple as throwing up a cool Web site that compels people to visit every day. Dream on. These sites are commercials, not communities. If you want to build a virtual community, here are the principles to implement:
Community before commerce. In the words of John Hagel III and Arthur G. Armstrong (authors of Net.Gain), "put community before commerce." That is, the purpose of these efforts is to build a community, not sell more stuff, so cool it on the commercialism. The community exists for its own benefit, not yours.
Communication comes next. Build in the capability for people to communicate with each other via message boards and Internet mail lists. Peer-to-peer communication is more important than being able to communicate with the company. You're hosting the event, but it's a cocktail party, not a lecture.
Place the community's interests above your own. The big picture is that a vibrant community will help you, but getting to this place means sacrificing short-term interests. For example, people should be able to freely discuss and endorse competitive products.
Tolerate criticism. Not only should peple feel free to plug competitive products, they should be able to criticize your own. This freedom produces two desirable results: first, good public relations because tolerating criticism on a company-sponsored site is unheard of; second, free and voluminous customer feedback.
Encourage "personalities." Remember how one of the keys to the success of MTV was veejays with an attitude? The same is true of a Web site, so encourage your employees to develop online personalities to show that corporate thought police don't control your site.
Source: Rules For Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services, Pages: 141-142
Contributed by: ~C4Chaos