Posted on June 21, 2009
Filed Under Business |
It seems like everyone these days wants to build an online community around their company or product. It’s a great idea because communities can provide feedback to let you know how your customer service is doing. They can get engaged early in your product development and help you build something better than you would have built otherwise. They can lower your customer support costs by helping each other through your community platform and capturing the most common questions and problems so that you can provide standard answers. This is all fantastic news for companies looking to do more with less, except for this one tiny barrier called time. There are only 168 hours in a week.
168 hours. Sounds like a lot of time doesn’t it? All you are asking is that I spend 20 minutes a week participating in your community. Everyone has 20 free minutes a week, right? If not, surely I will make 20 minutes for you if you give me something cool, like a higher ranking on your site if I participate, or maybe early access to some kind of new feature, or maybe even a discount on some of your stuff. Except, what you forget, is that I use a lot of different products and deal with a lot of different businesses in a week. Twenty minutes times 85 communities is not something I have time for.
So I don’t really have time to be part of a community around my local bank, and a bunch of local restaurants, and 5 non-profits whose founders are friends of mine (even though I support what they all do), and your LinkedIn group, and your my college alumni group on Facebook, and my high school alumni group on Facebook, and Digg, and Twitter, and the message boards for UK basketball (despite being a huge fan). It’s just that, at the end of the day, I need time to do things like work and sleep.
So if you want me to participate in your community, what can you do? I have time to do engage a little bit here and there. How can you get some of that time?
It has nothing to do with how passionate I am about your product. I love RainX and think it is one of the best products ever invented, but I have zero interest in chatting with other RainX lovers.
It has nothing to do with how important of a role you play in my life. Even if you are my financial adviser and my future retirement is in your hands, I don’t necessarily want to watch your webinar and chat with other people my age about their retirement goals.
The way to get me to participate is to provide me a better way to do the things that I was already trying to do without you. Your community has to save me time, not drain it. Your signal to noise ratio has to be extraordinary, because social media has made this a very noisy world.
So when you set up your Facebook page, or follow me on twitter, or launch a blog for your company so that you can “connect” with me, please don’t be offended if I don’t reciprocate. As George Costanza said, “it’s not you, it’s me”. I like your organization, and I plan to keep using your products, but I just don’t have time to join your community.