Best Practice: Should you build / buy /add social networking community to your brand?

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The key takeaway: If you are really going to build an online social (customer, user, partner) community take a look at some providers instead
of building one from scratch. Second, keep it focused. Third and most
important, make it easy for people to contribute, collect only as much
profile information as needed
and focus on keeping the community
aligned to a single or two goals max
. That’s the best recipe to success.

Since Om Malik called Social Networks a feature, there has been a lot of debate about whether companies and individuals want to be a part of many social networks. Clearly the average person has a ton of choices.

For instance if you look at my day (morning) in the life:
1. Wake up: There is a Toothpaste community and also one from P&G.
2. Go to my Gym: they have an online community.
3. Watch CNBC while running – community there too
4. Take a shower – Are you an Old Spice man?
5. My daughter and son both go to a private school that has online communities to interact with other parents, setup play dates, email the teachers.
6. Eating some breakfast. – community of cereal eaters!
7. Catch up with the morning new – CNN, MSNBC, Blogs – all have online communities
8. Listen to the radio while dropping the kids – KQED has a community.

All this just between 445 AM and 745 AM. After all how many communities do I actively participate in and feel a part of? Two – the kids (that’s because my wife forces me to) and my old school online community.

There is an interesting and very relevant post by Alan Patrick who has some observations:
1. “There is a limit to the number of social networks a person will
(willingly) join, and the bad news is that this obeys power laws”
2. “Registering with a social network, setting up the user profile etc adds
friction to a website, as much (if not more) as the old “Web 1.0″
approach of requiring a subscription.”
3. “A social net is not the answer to all services, and in fact may be outplayed by database oriented services.”