How to Create a Community

"Community" must be the most over-used, under-realized term in the whole web2.0 thing. Billion-dollar valuations for those who successfully realize critical mass (somewhere north of 25 million registered and 50 million uniques, it seems), and innumerable theories about how to forward-monetize (i.e. generate revenue from) those that get bought. And for all the rest of the digital media sites and smaller etailers out there, "community" is often thrown around as a panacea for all that ails them: customer retention and repeat transaction problems, expensive customer acquisition, and an insufficient alexa ranking to sell on-site ads north of remnant rates. Here's how to actually create a viable, growing, passionate, valuable community of supporters of your product, service, or brand, with a few examples of those that have bootstrapped it to their benefit. And remember: it's not absolute valuations that matter, just improving the potential valuation of YOUR business relative to your competitors that does.... 1) Build a better mousetrap. Quality is the first step. Crappy products engender temporary passion. Good products create permanent commitment, because it's easier to use something again that works than it is to bear the risk of an unknown. See:

2) Charge more than it costs, but less than the value it creates. Great products create lasting value for consumers, and when there is more value delivered than captured (in price) consumers tend to start to get magnanimous and pass a little love along... in the form of word-of-mouth support. Commitment from day one to continuously improving costs helps. See: 3) Facilitate referrals. Don't force trial by non-users or prosletize, just make it easy for people to share. Whether online or offline, the lower the barriers to trial and the greater the ability for your customers to "pass it along" the more likely one good experience will turn into another. See: 4) Go multi-channel. People don't eat, drink, talk, sleep, move, work, write, listen to music, or do anything else in one place anymore. Be where people consume what you make - everywhere they consume what you make, and you'll get to seven impressions and one trial faster. See: 5) Blatantly encourage people to share their positive experiences with your product or service. There's an adage in philanthropy, "If you don't ask, people won't give." Well, if you don't ask people to tell others about how you're better than everyone else's products (assuming, of course, that you are, see Step 1), then it won't happen with the frequency you'd like. See: There you go. Go forth and make your own community. It's not easy, but if you do all of these things - and not just Step 3 - it'll happen.

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