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Community is Not a Great Selling Point

235551345_266943d8acIn my recent experience I’ve found that using community as a selling point isn’t very effective.

Yes, communities can improve a user’s experience and it can keep people coming back, but to get them in the door, it’s just not something that people perceive to be valuable until they’ve experienced it.

There are exceptions.  If community is the core of your product (like Food 52 or The YEC for example), then that IS your selling point.  Then it can be very effective.

But the fact that a community exists on your product is not valuable in itself.

So you may not want to present your service as “join our service, we have an awesome community!”.  You may very well have an amazing community, but the people looking in from the outside won’t know that unless they hear it from other people that they trust.  Hearing it from you doesn’t matter.

We’re learning this at Feast.  Our product has been built around community in that we host online cooking classes and each class has its own community.  This way, they can share their questions, experiences, pictures, etc with people that are experiencing the same thing they are.

When we asked our students what they liked about the class, the majority of them noted the community as the most valuable aspect.  They loved interacting with other people, seeing what they did differently, learning from their mistakes and having a place to ask questions.

But when we ask people who have never taken one of our classes, “What’s the most important thing you want to get out of an online cooking class”, they talk about things like convenience, simplicity and creative inspiration.

They never think, “I really wish there was a group of strangers that I can interact with”.

People just don’t think about community as something that they need.  It’s something that they only really value after (or while) they experience it.

Now, by providing a really powerful community experience, you can improve word of mouth with your existing customers.  So community can still help you get people in the door. I just wouldn’t place it as the first bullet on your sales page.  First address the pains, hopes and fears that people know they have.

Have you found the same thing?  Or has your experience selling community as a feature been completely different?  Comment and let us know.

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About the author

David Spinks

TheCommunityManager.com, CMXSummit and LetsFeast.com. Lifelong student, community builder and writer.

7 comments
TonyHymes
TonyHymes

Interesting article David, I think it's important to note that selling a community is all about branding that community. When you put it in the terms of "a group of strangers" it's not very appealing, in fact you're right that it will even turn some people off. 

The community has to be presented as clearly valuable for the people in the target niche, what is the utility of having a community for the people in the community? Is it to learn interactively from like-minded amateur chefs? Is it to discover new music from hardcore electro music lovers on the other side of the world? The community must always serve a purpose, whether to reinforce the functionality of the product, or to generate a cool connection with someone new that becomes valuable in itself.

I completely agree with your point here that those who lead with community as a purely external marketing tactic will face an uphill battle.    

adondebas
adondebas

@Kirstenwagenaar Makes sense. When individuals all value somethin, they start to be a group of people that has something in common=community

Jules Standen
Jules Standen

Yep! Thanks I am on the case - luckily the guy doing likes forums - fingers crossed! I will use these for Facebook and AdWords ad campaigns only

Jules Standen
Jules Standen

This begs the question how to get people involved in communities.

I run a forum for fathers called www.mydaddycool.com

The main benefit dads would have  being part of the community is interacting with fellow dads at a time that suits them. (who has time to stay in touch with old friends once kids come along?) 

I am experimenting with social media and have been challenged that I need a "landing page" as a 13 year forum veteran I struggled to see then need - a list of forum headings and snippets of discussions is all anyone needs for a  front page surely?

Gradually the penny is dropping no.

I think I DO need to make a "landing page' 

How exactly I am unsure.. But it needs to entice with the core use purpose of the forum.

A work in progress...

Thoughts appreciated



rosemaryoneill
rosemaryoneill

@Jules Standen I like your site concept! I think the folks who are telling you that a landing page would help are correct...especially for those who aren't forum-savvy, it can be intimidating to figure out where the "entry point" is on a straight up categories and forums page. If you had a landing page with a nice visual, a quick summary of your site's purpose, and some member or topic highlights, that might help give an easier transition into the community, rather than BAM! here are all of our forums!  (I say this as a forum fanatic since 1998)

DavidSpinks
DavidSpinks moderator

@Jules Standen I'd urge you to first make sure you're building a community for the right reasons.  We talked about this here: http://thecommunitymanager.com/2013/09/24/two-questions-you-should-ask-before-starting-a-new-community/

Then make sure you really understand the goal of your landing page.

For example, I could see one potential route being to use the landing page as a place to establish exactly what the value is to the user and try to get them to take an action.

Maybe that action is adding their email address.  Then once you have email addresses, you can send out the top discussions every couple days.  Then people can read, and when they're ready, they can respond.

If a forum is overwhelming them, identify a way to simplify their first experience so that there's literally only one thing they have to do.  Then build up from there.

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