User communities are not just a low cost way to market and support your product, they are essential to complex technology products.
Clue Train: Markets are Conversations
The 1999 Cluetrain Manifesto offers a number of observations that are still very relevant. Take a look at the first seven (of 95) “Manifesto” theses and consider how they relate to your business and to your conversations with prospects and customers:
- Markets are conversations.
- Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
- Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
- Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments, or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
- People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
- The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
- Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
User Communities Are Critical For Complex Products
When you are thinking about the how a user community could impact your business, we believe you should take a long-term view of each partnership and build a strong ecosystem. We believing that establishing close, mutually beneficial relationships with users as partners will allow you to deliver the best products and services possible.
Here’s an interesting bit of wisdom from Adam Fields on The First Rule of Community:
There’s really only one rule for community as far as I’m concerned, and it’s this – in order to call some gathering of people a “community”, it is a requirement that if you’re a member of the community, and one day you stop showing up, people will come looking for you to see where you went.
One final quote on communities:
We spend a lot of time with firms helping to make sure that not only their offering but their internal metrics and scorekeeping mechanisms are keeping them aligned with the purposes of communities they wish to serve.
Postscript: More on Cluetrain
I blogged about the Cluetrain Manifesto last year in the “CINA Blog Panel Wrap-Up” where he suggested that the following were key theses:
1. Markets are conversations.
2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies
17. Companies that assume on-line markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
18. Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.
19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
61. Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smoke screen of hucksterism, of language that rings false and often is.
62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.