Had to specifically blog two articles I read lately and the upcoming Barcamp bangalore (more than 1000+ registrants!). Smart Mobs had some news about Omidyar.net closing up, but the write up highlights very keenly the same philosophy or thought I had written about in a post called the 4Cs (I wrote that Commerce is not a very important spoke), quoting from there:
One of the things we’ve learned over the last three years is that self-managed communities can work. Given the tools and the space in which to use them, the community can and will manage itself and keep things running with little to no oversight. We’ve also learned that communities are all about the people, not the platform, and that’s informed our decision for moving forward.
And then Brian highlights the importance of environment / ecosystem in his post “Its not the features … its the environment!” at Social Degree
Do features, design and UI help create the environment? Absolutely. But the community’s environment make features valuable, the features don’t make the community valuable.
This is evident in many of the online communities that I use as regular examples in my posts. For example, Sermo is nothing more than a forum. But they have created a high quality environment for doctors to interact. Such a high quality that they are able to charge hedge funds and big pharma companies $150,000 for access to the content that is being created by the community.
There is no formula to building a great environment, and therefore a community. Much of it is like entrepreneurship. It takes persistence, dedication, creativity, and a healthy dose of luck.
Luck is a key part, because you never know what member or action might be the tipping point. But as Bo Peabody (founder of Tripod) explains in his book “Lucky or Smart”, while you can’t force luck, there are a number of things that you can do to increase your chances of being lucky.
So what does this mean in the world of the Facebook Platform and Ning? It means that nothing, especially those two items, are the be all, end all of online communities. Facebook has a pre-existing, established environment and Ning is for the most part an environment out of the box.
And David (Genuine VC), says
What really matters is Brand.
In the end, each media property means something different to a
different set of people. It’s the brand that’s important, not the
Take an analog analog here… a magazine. Readers of a magazine like
Time could care less about the printing press used to make the
publication, whether it was inked with the latest technology or an
When I explore a potential VC investment in a consumer-facing online
media startup opportunity, one of the questions I ask is: “what is the
long-term potential to build a long-term brand?” With any
media property, it either needs to have wide mass appeal with an
adequate monetization rate or a niche appeal with a very high
monetization rate. Whether or not it has a social element to
it depends on the audience. But in reality, from here on out, I suspect
almost all of new online media will be some type social media.
From my personal experience, same holds true for Flickr and the Indian MBA entrant community Pagalguy. Both the brands have garnered a very high following and its very cult like.
Flickr leveraged it in terms of a buyout and thankfully Yahoo phasing out it Y! Photos product (talk about power of the community! BTW its just forums and comments …). Else there might have been a big backlash and they couldn’t sustain having two development teams essentially trying to serve the same need.
Thankfully, Pagalguy also realizes this is working towards monetising and spinning out products utilizing its brand value.
Leaving behind with some questions in my mind. If you think a bit:
The Brand is what customer thinks of You. The customer / consumer own the BRAND! yes, you can influence them and try to manage their reactions but its beyond your control! So, the question is: How can you grow the Brand? How can sustain it? How can you monetize it?
Note: Brand can either be a huge company, community or can be just YOU.
Guess, to me more experience and reading will let me answer it awaiting your comments