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Misunderestimating Communities

Lessons on working with communities from @kthread and @virtualpeter via Dr Claw, Huffington Post and Lego.


  1. One of my main lessons from our Social Media Week session -many organizations are misunderestimating communities, focusing on counting fans when they should be building real relationships. A couple of recent stories seem to illustrate the difference quite nicely, while Lego's community ground rules point to some worthwhile considerations for those wishing to work with communities. 
  2. Lets begin with Dr Claw, who was until a few months ago, the purveyor of a rather unique Lobster roll experience. 

    Fans of the Lobster roll might order day or night via a Facebook Page and receive a package from the good Doctor. That is, until the NYC Department of Health shut down his own-based operation. 

    Then the outpouring began to "Save Dr Claw" as his fans connected online to discuss his fate. From an undisclosed location, he assured his fans, that he will return soon. 
  3. More recently, The Huffington Post was sold to AOL. A very vocal response was a commitment to huff and puff and blow the newly formed entity down. 
  4. Why does the end of an illicit Lobster rolling operation cause a community rally in support while a mega-merger causes another community to unite seek destruction? 

    I think the answer lies in understanding organizations relationships with communities. I am not sure organizations value their communities enough (yet). 
  5. The response to #huffpuff community has been swift with those involved in the deal no doubt eager not to draw into question the merits of the new marriage. People offering very detailed and insightful views of the role of free contributors to the Huffington Post and it's economics in general. 

    But I think this misses the point. It is not just about bloggers who contributed for free, but also the people who chose the Huffington Post as a forum for discussion and debate or that chose to link to the Huffington Post (when similar content might exist elsewhere). 

    The community that returns to the Huffington Post each day and links to it, comments on it and contributes to it, seems to have been undervalued. 
  6. I believe Huffington Post and AOL have misunderstood where the value has been created by talking about things like SEO and analytics. There has not been any discussion of loyal core contributors beyond bloggers. I think this misses a key "asset" of the Huffington Post. 
  7. Interestingly throughout our discussion about Communities with Kristen Taylor and Peter Espersen, a couple of recurring themes appeared and this slide from Peter captured a number of elements that I think are very very easy for organizations to overlook when they work with communities. 

    The Huffington Post deal seems to fail a number of the Lego communities tests, as highlighted below. I will be very curious to see how things evolve in coming weeks as the #huffpuff community organizes and continues to propose alternatives to the Huffington Post. 
  8. Kristen has shared video from our session as well as her sslides, since we didn't manage to get through all of them. 
  9. Also check out Kristen's great outline of here NYU ITP class on communities. 
  10. Finally, some great background on how Lego has rebuilt the company by working with the Lego community.