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?

3 thoughts on “Why online communities fail

  1. Hey,

    Thanks for mentioning our post. I have to say that at FreshNetworks we work a lot measuring the benefit of the online communities we set up. Different measures are appropriate for different people, it all depends why the community was set up in the first place. More of often than not measures of quality are more insightful than quantity measures.

    Matt Rhodes

  2. @Matt That is a growing segment of the space because of the notion that social media engagements cannot be measureed in a successful way.


  3. Pingback: Automotive Social Networking - Starting to Gain Traction | Internet Sales Manager in Training

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