Every community has a voice, they just need a venue in which to express it. In the world of Web 2.0
, we, the user, are the writers, innovators, editors, critics and most importantly, the consumer.
Bryant Shea, Director of Content Management at Molecular marveled that even as we are inundated with information, we embrace it. We love to be engaged, listened to and best yet, see changes that take place as a result of our criticisms. In his session entitled Building Online Communities
Mr. Shea shared anecdotes of companies who embraced (or at least tolerated) negative opinions expressed through user-generated content and those that chose to ignore, hide or run far far away from negative press and the subsequent toll their actions had in the marketplace.
Companies who set expectations about what their site can and cannot do and have a plan about how to handle negative exposure will be able to handle the demands that user-generated content and social networking site often bring.
According to Shea, as consumers in the Web 2.0 biosphere, we exert more control over advertising than ever before. DV-Rs fast-forward over commercials, plug-ins hide all online advertising, print ads are read less and less. So how is a new product supposed to get any air time? Creating an online community that allows users the opportunity to interact with the product is a start. Users who visit your site have lots in common, your product for one and they want to be involved in its innovation.
Collaborating with other social networking sites is also a great way to spread your brand and it shares its users. Google maps, itunes, flickr.com, for example, already have an established base of users.
The collaboration also makes the experience more interactive and easier for the user. However, one has to wonder, is there is a tried and true method of building a user-generated content community that guarantees a return on investment?
Sadly, so far it appears there is not. But it's worth the try. For the only method yet guaranteed not to work is never giving it a shot.