I Don’t Have Time To Be Part of Your Community

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.

Comments

9 Responses to “I Don’t Have Time To Be Part of Your Community”

  1. Mike Campbell on June 21st, 2009 2:31 pm

    I think they need to spend more time engaging in my community rather than trying to get me to join theirs. For example, this morning I posted a picture of my worn-out running shoes. One follower replied with some great advice. I hadn’t forgotten this, but he sells shoes online. With two tweets he proved himself knowledgeable of both running and running shoes. I am now much more likely to purchase shoes from him. Lesson for companies is to listen first, then engage.

  2. Posts about Digg as of June 21, 2009 » The Daily Parr on June 21st, 2009 2:37 pm

    [...] come as a surprise to many that some parts of England are actually experiencing water shortages I Don’t Have Time To Be Part of Your Community - coconutheadsets.com 06/21/2009 It seems like everyone these days wants to build an online [...]

  3. Chris Hall on June 21st, 2009 9:47 pm

    Great points, Rob. Joining a community just for the sake of community is not so doable these days. The novel of it has worn off. Looking forward to what’s next though. :)

  4. Ed on June 22nd, 2009 11:44 am

    Love it!

  5. alfie on June 22nd, 2009 12:00 pm

    I Agree with Mike, you have to talk to people directly where *they* are talking, not sit on a facebook podium page asking people to come and listen to you beam stuff at them. But it’s a mix isn’t it - if you have the conversations but don’t have the presence the conversation can get lost in the noise, especially with completely asynchronous conversations and purchase decisions. The trick, I think, is to actually have something to say and say it where people need to hear it (Mike’s running shoes example) whilst giving them a place to come and connect if they need more. Thank God that at least brands aren’t creating enormous SocMed destination sites that often anymore.

  6. Chris Deary on June 22nd, 2009 1:26 pm

    Surely a community is just another product, so of course you don’t have time for all them… just like you don’t have time to read every single newspaper or eat every single type of chocolate bar. Communities compete for people’s time and affection, just like any other product/brand does.

  7. Anne Caborn on June 22nd, 2009 2:27 pm

    This is a really cogent piece. I’m having the following extract tattooed on my soul:
    “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.”

  8. Robin Bruce on June 22nd, 2009 3:22 pm

    I couldn’t agree more - too many sites in our market are predicated on a false premise - that people have time to simply log on and write review, just for the good of ‘community’, they don’t (and, with few exceptions - won’t). They do, though, if they feel that either (a) writing a review is a way of thanking a business for exceptional service (in years gone by they might have written a letter!), or (b) the business won’t react or respond to their negative experience any other way.

  9. Gill Hunt on June 23rd, 2009 8:58 am

    This is so right - and even more so if you are trying to engage people in business rather than as consumers. Unless community owners are very careful the only engagement comes from people with time on their hands - and in business they are not generally the ones you want to reach!

  • About Rob

    Rob is co-founder of Backupify.com. He likes value investing, the Rolling Stones, college basketball, artificial intelligence, economic history and people who think independently.