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There are two kinds of communities

August 19, 2009

When most people think of the definition of social network, they think Facebook. Or MySpace until it began imploding.

Some might say Tagged, Hi5, Bebo or even iGoogle.

I don’t.

I think a social network is a community of people that are tied together by an outcome. Social networking sites are tools. The thing that brings someone back to the tool is the manner in which the community uses it towards that outcome.

For an individual, the value of a social network is in their community.

For a brand, the value is in harnessing the community based on that outcome (or behavior). It simply comes down to this: regardless of how the community came to be, why do people join, and what can a brand give people to held that?

The first thing to think about this: what kind of community are we talking about?

1. Existing communities: There’s a community of people out there talking about your brand. Or your category. Find them, find out what they want, infiltrate them, and give them what they want. That’s the somewhat easy way. That means creating a Facebook page, or a Twitter feed. The hard part is corralling people into your space. Creating a Facebook page, or a Twitter feed or a YouTube channel means adding content that drive people to them. The people are there. Facebook has goofy amounts of people. YouTube as well. But if you start with the notion that people don’t want to come to your space and you have to earn every click.

2. That’s why the second kind of social network is one that is started from scratch. This is the harder track, but I think it might be worth it in the long run. It’s not impossible, especially if we expand the definition of community to include people who followed BMW’s wackiness and McDonald’s alternate reality. But it’s hard. It takes time, and patience. Starting a blog is an example of the second kind. When this blog started, it had no readers. Starting a website is the same thing. When a site launches, it has no visitors. Add community elements, and that’s a reason for people to come back.

Imagine that. Your website is a network of people who like your product or service that gather around it to talk about all-things your product. A pipe dream? Not really. People like to share. Give them a reason, and the tools, and they will. It’s simple.

The hard part is executing it. Start by calling your local Community Manager.

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