When I was at school we used to play around with a BBC micro and phone coupler. 900 baud modems were wonderful technology and bulletin boards were mainly populated by a SysOp and a handful of geeks, all displayed in glorious teletext.
Roll forward a few decades, add broadband, invent a few marketing acronyms and suddenly the population online is even my 70 year old mum. Household names are spending hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to get you to just look at their website once, possibly twice and nought-point something to actually care. Forget your eBays and Amazons, even your Tescos online – nobody really loves them beyond their commoditised products and optimised functionality.
Online today, like in the real world, the real successes are communities… and many of these have brand equityÂ others would die for. However, these are not the well known brands we see when we walk down our clone high streets or flick through our morning paper. Real love is given to online communities that tap into something that people are really passionate about.
Personally, the online community I really love is called No-future; a record label and forum set-up by a musician called Cristian Vogel.Â No-future aims to cost effectively sell more records and get more gig bookings. Something that it has definitely achieved. It also has its own erutufon brand identity and a very strong brand personality.
But why does No-future attract hundreds of the leading underground musicians across the globe and tens of thousands of their fans? Why do people participate in the community day after day, week in week out? Why do other forums recognise No-future as one of the strongest online communities, even if others have more eyeballs?
Three things seem to make No-future loved; loved in a way that millions of advertising budget does not often seem to create:
- Most of the content is not about selling a product – it is user generated and reflects users’ thoughts, interests, activities and observations. This freedom of expression earns the right to talk about the things you want to sell.
- Moderation is strictly only in extreme circumstances – nobody deletes anything just because it swerves away from the core brand message. Nobody insists that you are positive or demands control of which conversations are allowed – and which are not.
It seems that many household names would have more success online if they dropped their conservative fear of what might happen and endless grab for short-term sales.
The best strategic focus is to build long-term communities and ifÂ you are lucky, you’ll earn a lot of love forÂ your brand. You never know, you might even sell a lot more widgets and have many people talking about your brand.