Why online communities fail

“What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.” — spoken by “The Captain”, the imperious prison warden played by Strother Martin in the movie, “Cool Hand Luke”


We talk about how great social nets are and all of the great things it has to offer but here is the flip side to that coin, why do online social communities fail? Where is the disconnect? Here are some opinions on the matter from the blogosphere.

Here is a post in which Eric Zeman says that up to this point mobile social networking has been a big fat failure. I’ve blogged about this in the past and have basically said that the 2 issues that will slow this rush down will be lack of real estate on the hand held device and browser speed of course. What do you think? where do you fall?

Social networking 2008 Friend or Failure, did this guy get it right? To a degree he did.  Of course we have this little ditty from the Wall Street Journal on why communities fail. which we did not really need to read to know why they fail. It’s the community people, its the people, people. It’s not the cash. People make communities work. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t call them communities.

John Furrier has an interesting take as well, in which he says that users want value not cheerleaders but that still doesn’t prevent him from saying that Social Media – Corporate Blogging – Most Failing? It has to be social.

Are you starting to see a trend here? As many supporters and champions of how great social nets are, there are still areas in which some if not many see shortcomings and potential for improvement in the model. Here are a few more. This one coming from the auto industry: Social Media Networks in the automotive industry are fledgling and the dynamics created inside of them is atypical of what you see in other niches.

Here’s a post from last summer, titled, Traditional marketing failing on social networks. Yes  that still seems to be true though I am seeing some marketing gains in regards to companies putting the right people in place to handle new social media intiatives. But not at any acceptable levels.

What all of this is, is people looking at communities and saying they are failing, or they failed and then they start pointing fingers. Or they just count the reasons why they failed. Or maybe they are the ones, who have never participated?  Bottom line should be, how do you prevent community failure in an online social network?

Here is a response from FreshNetworks in response to the Wall Street Journal article in which they are essentially saying, Branded online communities that are set up and managed correctly don’t fail. And I have to agree with them.

Here’s more on why online communities fail In a world saturated with solicitations where people have less and less attention available, most communities fail because they bypassed a few important questions, like “what are we offering users?”, “what is differentiating us from other communities?”,

And of course the online community numbers that don’t add up

Why do online communities fail?  The biggest reason for failure is relying on technology – whether it’s websites, forums, Web 2.0, social media, social networks or any of the buzzwords. Too many businesses spend massive amounts of money on the technology rather than the plans and processes and people that are what make up a community. To a certain degree the technology might not fit but it’s technology that drives the process, so we have to rely on it.

The customer collective on why communities fail: The first reason is that many companies who embark on community initiatives are putting their company or product at the center of the effort. As many pointed out, that is obviously WRONG – you need to put the community member at the center and make sure that there is some passion around the initiative. Put the customer at the center, but the customer needs to know why they are there.

Three Reasons Branded Online Communities Fail Would you launch a new product or service line without an experienced person to develop and manage it? Not usually, no. The same goes for online communities.

Or perhaps, why online communities fail, Community is about community and community leaders, folks don’t be seduced by eye candy!

Why Does Corporate Social Networking Fail? Dave Allen weighs in at Social Media Today. And so does Jerry Bowles with Online Business Communities – Who’s Winning? Who’s Losing

In conclusion let’s remember the thing that people who have the cash to set these up seem to forget or overlook. It’s all about the community, the managers, the brand champions, the word of mouth people who love the site,  the users who genuinely love to connect with people, it’s people who love the brand and the company, the people who would do anything for the company for the brand.  Its the friendships made. Its about companies listening. Those are your community. NOT the marketers, and the tech people that built it. It’s the people that matter that contribute, and it’s the contributors that matter who matter most. What part of that do you not understand?

After reading your fair share, where do you think the burden of an online communities success should fall?

There needs to be a little of Randy Pausch in all of us

Valeria Maltoni could not have said it any better in this post titled There’s a Randy Pausch in Each Person. I echo her sentiments by saying if there is not already some Randy Pausch in each and every one of us, then there needs to be.

Read her post. It made my week. Along with the ensuing conversation between her and myself and David Armano, it has really made me glad that I know both of them to the limited degree that I do. Be sure to read David’s post in which he says that we really need to make every interaction count. My question to you, are you making every interaction count? I bet you are online, but what about offline?

10 social media blog posts to read this week


Here’s a good midway point of the year article by Jim Tobin from Ignite Social Media on what the future of social media might bring. How many of these do you agree with? My 2 cents is that #4 will be more portable in regards to social media being more mobile rather than portable.

I haven’t had a chance to check these guys out Ecairn, but let me know if you do.

I’ve written about this in the past in regards to whether your online identity is alligned with your offline identity and Dan Thornton’s article takes it one step further. Check out his post, Is your online indentity in your control?

Richard at Dell has a nice compilation post from yesterday of things you should check out, not the least of which are The Blog Council, which I’m still on the fence with, and Feedly, which I have not checked out yet.

I love Mike Manuels’ post about measuring social media as well, since I sat in a bar last friday night and talked essentially about the same thing with Jason Breed from Neighborhood America. The bottom line and Mike’s post back it up. Very few companies have a clue about how to monitor their online engagements with social media as well as their online personas in general. You have to have a way to monitor your web traffic but then if and this is a big if, you are monitoring your social media interactions, what is the data that you are wanting to pull from it? What are your goals?

Read this post on Stowe Boyds blog,  How we are made great and then lastly on Jason Falls blog, KatFrench has a great post on social media specialists chucking their backgrounds that basically asks the question, who’s running the ship for social media?

Does social media seduce us?

So you meet someone. And there is something about that someone that enthralls you.  Something that makes you want to spend hours with that person. Time becomes non-existent. Food-an afterthought. Your current friends and family wonder where you have been. Why? Because you have been, in this case, sucked into social networking and social media and it’s now become this mating dance of sorts.

 So the questions, have you been seduced by social media?  Does it seduce us? Sure It does. Admit it, you know you have been sucked in and seduced by its offerings of endless friendships and relationships with like minded people, its cool widgets, it’s offer of making things easier so you can connect with more people etc., etc.  That’s right, Social media and the public are in love with each other right now. or better yet, are infatuated with each other.   The result being, we, the users, are willing to to be fed whatever social media and it’s networks want to serve us right now. We’re willing to accept it because It’s fresh right now.

The relationship is fresh. We go out with each other and we have no complaints, or if we do, we overlook them for now.  In fact, we tell others about our relationship with social media. We want others to see it, we want to share it. We want them to be a part of it.

Because Social Media is that bright shiny thing. That hot new boy toy. The smoking girl you met last week.

In fact social media can do no wrong right now because social media has a lot of siblings and a lot of connections and they all are very loving and friendly and willing to go out with you too. It’s like one big brothel!

The only thing you need to bring to the table is your personal information. All you have to give up is some tiny bits of personal information that should not take to long to give up and is really not that big a deal and you’ll be back doing your social media thing in no time etc etc. And based on the fact that it’s not that big a deal, you go ahead. And you forget it about it.

Problem is, the relationship may sour. or even already might be starting to sour. Most do, at least to the extent that 50% of all marriages fail. So why will this one be any different?  You’re realizing that maybe it wasn’t as sexy and shiny and new as you thought. So now what?

You’ve just given yourself, all of yourself over to this relationship, and now it has soured.  What do you do?

Hell it’s social media, just go join another one. Go find another social networking group.  Think about it. A relationship ends, you mourn, you pick yourself up, you dust yourself off and you go and find another relationship to jump into.  But now you’re wizer, you know better, you’ve learned from all of the previous relationships and now you know exactly what you are looking for. The question is. Who will be in charge of this relationship? You, or the other? Who’s calling the shots? Assuming that both have learned from their previous relationships, here are 11 things that both parties should be aware before entering into any new social media, social networking union.

Your next relationship with social media will be better than the previous one because of a few factors. 1) You know what you’re looking for 2) The relationship is based more on trust and understanding of each other 3) The relationship involves even more communication 4) You are available for each other all the time 5) There will never be a betrayal 6) Self improvement will be mutual 7) It will be important to share with others 8)  Mutual Respect will be necessary 9) We promise to be the person we are, and not the person we wished to be 10) Our privacy will always be our privacy 11) My data is mine and not yours and when I want it back, I mean it I want it back. Don’t make me jump through a bunch of bullshit hoops to get it back either!

So in answer to my question. Yes, social media does seduce us. It always will, but fool me once shame on you, fool me twice and shame on me.

Randy Pausch

I sit here with a heavy heart. I’ve written about Randy Pausch in the past because of my Pittsburgh roots and his lecture that inspired  me, that inspired us. His subsequent book and his appearances on national talk shows about his amazing attitude only made his story and his life that much more incredibly inspiring… and now I hear Jack Johnson singing about “where have all the good people gone”? I know where one of them has gone and it’s with a tremendous amount of sadness that I write this.

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor whose final lecture inspired millions, has died of pancreatic cancer and that sucks. I know that it was inevitable, death is inevitable, but why does it have to happen to people that inspire us?

Dr. Pausch, had turned that “last lecture” into a book,  and often said that no one would be interested in his words of wisdom were he not a man in his 40s with a terminal illness.

Here for the last time for me, and for you is his lecture.

Last fall, Dr. Pausch delivered the lecture at Carnegie Mellon University. The lecture had attracted more than six million viewers. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette  In the year preceding the lecture, he had gone through rounds of chemo and radiation and had documented it for all of us on his website., but he refused to give in to the fact that he was dying or feeling sorry for himself. On the contrary, he focused on the cancer, he blogged about it with constant updates. But also talked about how to fulfill childhood dreams and the lessons he learned on his life’s journey. he shared it all with us. Every bit of it. His life for us was now for all to see, as well as his death. If only all of us could have such an outlook on life, our lives, without the thought that death was near.

In May, Dr. Pausch spoke at the Carnegie Mellon University commencement. He said a friend and I quote the Post Gazette, had recently told him he was “beating the Grim Reaper” because it had now been nine months since his doctor told him he would die in six.

“But we don’t beat the Reaper by living longer. We beat the Reaper by living well,” said Dr. Pausch, who urged the graduates to find and pursue their passion. He put an exclamation point at the end of his remarks by kissing his wife, Jai, and carrying her off stage.

In New Orleans, where I was originally from, we celebrate someone’s life after they have passed with a jazz funeral. Yes, we mourn their passing initially in the jazz funeral, but then we finish with a resounding celebration of a person’s life. We can and should do that for Randy Pausch.

Twitter chokes…again

So I was just remarking on how well Twitter performed during the last Twebinar and was also telling someone how I received 25 new followers, and then the next thing you know, I start seeing tweets of people who lost hundreds, thats right hundreds of followers. I lost 40.  If you’re curious as to what your numbers WERE go here Twittercounter 

I would also suggest reading TwitterCounter, Inflation and Moby Dick The excuses as usual, are vague if not nonexistent from Twitter who has basically said, they’re cleaning out “spammers”. Can’t we take care of that? As it is, a quick scan can show you who’s a spammer, it’s not like they’re hiding, with names like amanda492 or tracy312 and what not, they’re easy as hell  to find.  They’re following 2,345 people and have 12 followers, I mean WTF?

We’ve been talking a lot lately about protecting the brand and I have to be honest, I know that there are certain market segments that utilize Twitter more than others but, and I’ve said this before, someone is going to come along and blow Twitter out of the water. They will build something faster, more reliable and failsafe. Find a need and fill it. Well guess what,  Can you say?


Want to see lots of pissed off Twitter people? Go to Summize and type in #suckit. Wonder if Twitter is following that? Can you say Brand Failure? Can you say No Brand Loyalty? Can you say revolt? How many times do we have to put up with this?





Social Media is not…Part II

As if having over 60 ideas, suggestions and observations of what “social media is not” was not enough, I now add an additional 25 responses from Linkedin and Twitter.

Social Media is Not

65. Your free answer generator if you run out of inspiration. After receiving this reply I responded that the person could do better than that and thus I received the following:

Social Media is not about individuals, it only is about its own gods and half gods. Since I am not a half god nor a god, it is quite obvious people would not know me. Social Media is also not definable since it is everything you want it to be and everything anyone else wants it to be. People who like to catch it in a few lines do not understand Social Media, since Social Media is more than some definitions and words alone it is a journey that never ends.

66. … A one way thing.

Be prepared for lots of criticism and people who have a lot of time and every motivation to make sure that what you are is accurate and true. If it is not… well we have all seen the examples.

Accept that any company/ product/ person that ventures into social media will be scrutinised and critisized.

While some shy away from social media for this reason exactly increasingly there is a realisation that abstaining is not a risk – free strategy. Getting out there and being honest might be scary but it certainly gains you a lot in terms of engagement and reputation.

67. … A substitute for a real social life.

68. …Doing much other than seriously turning everyone into a marketing expert to our global detriment.

When I mentioned that I would like to have him expound on this, and suggested perhaps he look at it differently, I received this heated response that diverts into a global political rant..

I’ll look at it as I please, thanks.

Anyone who tells me “you need to look at it like this” needs to look at, well, that kind of language and is a function of that culture.

The only reason I “need to look at it like this” is because your professional reputation depends upon the success of social networking. Otherwise what I said wouldn’t be such a threat to your well-being. None intended, but that’s what drives a statement like that.

True, social networking is not all bad, and they’re not all great either.

Where is all this communication getting us? It is a bourgeois pastime, a distraction from crippling debt, anti-intellectualism, fake dionesianism, and while on the surface, available to everyone for low-low rates, is yet another competition for time and energy towards things that really matter, like democracy and true personal freedom.

Our world is entering what appears to be an even greater period of vapid leadership than ever before. Why? Because MySpacers can’t see that Mr. Obama needs a team of 300 economic advisors. Bill Clinton could argumentatively engage that number in a blind-chess-tourney. All they see is a well-tailored marketing message.

Our present democratic contender is a direct result of the attitudes arising from social networking. He provides a message that is well tailored, yet inappropriate for our circumstance (he got prominence from unenlightened religious/political leader Oprah Winfrey, won the nomination on an anti-war platform, and having won it and being confronted with the economy, he’s got nothing. Nada. Zippo.)

We need a seriously deep, connected technocrat/intellectual to undo the ravages of this prior administration. This generation is going to continue to fail to see that all that glitters is not gold, and not all that’s being sold is worth buying. Unfortunately we’ll be worse off than with Hillary because they don’t know how to identify with what’s needed on a basis of principle over personality. And that’s the big, big problem.

At that point, I wished him well in his future endeavors!

69. The greatest thing since sliced bread, and it gets just as stale over the course of a few days. 🙂

70. The only internet marketing strategy.

71. An avenue to “push” your product.

72. A replacement for all marketing strategies and tools like ad, pr, print, tv, radio or other methods for a company.

73. Is not a replacement for good customer service or a good reliable product or product support.

74. Is not going to directly reflect $$ at the cash register in a short term– nor can it always be quantified in terms of dollars but actually name, brand, product recognition. Just as a tv ad might not reflect in significant sales, the social media should be dealt with in the same manner.

75. Is not static. It’s going to evolve so staying only on myspace.com isn’t the only place. There are other options that can employ social media within the context of the marketing strategy tools.

76. Is not just about the number of friends on whatever site you choose to be part of– you actually have to participate and you actually need to have a great product to deliver. It’s not just about the sizzle, you need to have the steak that goes with it. (as in show me the beef)

77. … Is _not_ a mass media

78.  … Something you can do in your spare time.

79. …Addictive

80. … Going to make you any money this year. Or next year. Or the year after that. Or the year after that, or the year after that, or even *gasp* the year after that — unless you’re kin to Rupert Murdoch.

81. …A goal in and of itself.

82. …new.

It’s something you and your organization are already doing, only without applying the “social media” tag to it. It’s using <insert platform here> to make it easier for people to reach each other.

The concept is ancient both from conceptual and technological aspects. What’s new is the shiny implementations popping up… and actual mainstream acceptance. It’s now officially cool to be connected.

83. …Owned by marketing, nor PR, nor advertising.

84. …A destination, it’s a tool.

85. … Accurate and qualitative enough to trust.

86. …Is not a solution to every communication or PR problem

87. …Is not just for kids

88. …Is not a replacement for developing a solid strategy and should not stand alone as a tactic

89. …Is not a new way of thinking, it’s a new way of doing.

As you can see, the perceptions sometimes do not mix with reality. I engaged in some really lively discussions on this topic and will cause me to create an interesting slide presentation on the subject. I’m amazed as well at how skewed and actually how misinformed some of the respondents were. You can also see, where some are completely fed up with even talking about social media anymore. Their loss I suppose. In the end, as I was telling someone earlier, in a few years, we might not even recognize the monolith that is social media as it evolves into iterations that we haven’t even thought of yet.

Twebinar #2 review: Who owns your brand? We do.

Yesterday Twebinar #2 brought it on home. Huh? What I mean is that, though the first one was good, the second one was great! For those of you who are wondering what the hell I’m talking about, this is what a twebinar is and was.

The twebinars are a series of  mashups in which Chris Brogan and David Alston have assembled the best and brightest from PR, Marketing, and Social media into a series of video interviews, live sound bites, and live video, into a massive twitter round table. What occurs is this healthy discussion on a certain topic, in this case the brand, and more specifically, who owns your brand. The discussion is rapid fire, the tweets even faster, and this is something that has gotten better, and not only combines the best and the brightest as a focal point, but really what makes it work so well, is the conversations that occur with stars in their own right from companies far and wide. 

I was amazed at the depth and breadth of the tweets. Combine this with Chris Brogan moderating the stream of videos, the conversation with some live guests via web cam and phone such as Richard Binhammer, as well responding to questions via twitter and you have this organized chaos of free flowing discussion about a very poignant and hot topic at the present moment. Your Brand.

I have to give props to how quickly things have evolved from the first twebinar. Given the improvement and the depth to which they took constructive criticism to heart from the first twebinar, this bodes well for the next, which means that we will be seeing more of these in the future. For me, the twebinar produced 18 new followers in twitter, which is very cool.

What I would like to see for the next session is a way for a lot of us to be able to see the videos and the flow of discussion at the same time. I was using Summize-recently bought by Twitter. I was also using Twhirl too, which had some latency issues, which caused me to use Twiiter as my main client, So I toggled from the videos to Summize to Twitter. It worked for me since I was listening more than I was watching. But ultimately it worked.

What I took away from the mashup was simply that brand management is as important as anything that a company might do, and yet sometimes the brand gets ignored through complacency, smugness and ignorance. Often times, when this happens, it’s too late to try and grab marketshare back.

Yet, the companies that do value the customer, and who ultimately realize through an epihpany sometimes, that the customer is the one who defines the brand, are the ones that realize that YES they(the customer) are the brand as much as the company is.

Bottom Line, the twebinars give marketers, social media champions, PR peeps and N00bs all a chance to voice some very valuable opinions and thoughts and what it tells me is this. There are soooo many superstars out there who DO get it. I want to connect with them as much as I want to connect with the true superstars in the space.

For those of you that did participate yesterday, what did you think? What did you take away from it? and how will use what you learned? What should happen in the next Twebinar?

26 people you could trust in the social media space.

In the second part of my series of trust in social media, I thought it might be a good thing to mention and highlite 26 people in the social media/marketing space whose thoughts I appreciate and whose knowledge and willingness to share that knowledge I value. I also thought it more important that it should be a list of people who would do their best to be a straight shooter, tell the truth, and give you what you need, not what they want you to have. Big Difference.

If I were you and you were either looking for that list of people whos blogs and companies that you could refer to on a daily basis or just starting out in trying to understand what social media is as it pertains to marketing, then this list is a good start. Not all of them swim in social media waters only, but it is still a very strong list for you to work off of.

  1. Scott Monty
  2. Stowe Boyd
  3. Chris Brogan
  4. Jeremiah Owyang
  5. Rohit Bhargava
  6. Charlene Li
  7. Phil Gomes
  8. Shel Israel
  9. Lee Odden
  10. Steve Rubel
  11. Valeria Maltoni
  12. Brian Solis
  13. B.L. Ochman
  14. Toby Bloomberg
  15. Drew McLellan
  16. MIke Sansone
  17. Seth Godin
  18. Geoff Livingston
  19. Maggie Fox
  20. Becky Carroll
  21. David Armano
  22. Joseph Jaffe
  23. Mack Collier
  24. Guy Kawasaki
  25. Gavin Heaton
  26. Rachel Happe

So who do you trust? Who’s words do you take to heart and try to apply to your businesses? Who motivates you to no end?

A creative proposal with a kick ass social media plan

Two agencies compete in a head-to-head pitch for a fictitious project based around the film “Casablanca.”  live in front of several hundred people at iMedia’s Entertainment Marketing Summit

Doug Schumacher and his badass team at Basement, won the pitch. Here is  the marketing strategy and creative thinking that won them the fictitious gig. Pay attention especially to the social media plan within the slides.

Here is the premise for the pitch:

“Shortly after winning the 1943 Academy Award for Best Picture, all the prints of ‘Casablanca’ were mysteriously lost. Although many stills, newspaper accounts, magazine articles and subsequent interviews with the stars of the film have long been available, nobody has seen ‘Casablanca’ since 1943.

“Then, in January 2008, an archivist stumbled across the prints in the Warner Bros. Burbank, Calif. lot. Excited by this discovery, Warner Bros. has chosen to do a limited theatrical re-release of this great but long-missing film.”

The mission:

The hypothetical re-release would be for Valentine’s Day weekend, 2009. The budget to work with was $350K-$500K for creative development and non-paid media, and $1,000,000 in paid media.

Here is the competitive landscape:

  • A Matthew McConaughey/Kate Hudson romantic comedy opening on the same day and date
  • A Michael Bay war-action-adventure flick, set in Iraq in a bit of counter-programming; same opening day and date
  • A long-awaited two-part “More Sex and the City” is airing on TNT, part one on Valentine’s Day eve

Here are the slides: