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How to Create an Online Customer Community to Support Complex Products

Online customer communities can be a puzzle for companies that are accustomed to straight forward direct response campaigns and traditional customer service models.

At their core, online communities are simple. Root components like trust, shared values, and communication are common elements of building any relationship. However, all of the variables that come with empowering and managing diverse stakeholders over time make growing an online community a complex and involved endeavor.

In the following TEDx talk, Mark Wills, community manager at the large technology Q&A community Experts Exchange, breaks down the human elements that executives need to internalize to create an online community that provides value to customers, partners, and the company.

As Mark points out, online communities challenge what we envision as community. In traditional social situations, age, gender, and ethnicity matter. In offline communities, members have to do little more than show up to participate and make their presence known.

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Online communities deliver both unique opportunities and challenges to companies and their customers. Since users are often anonymous and faceless, online community members must find ways to create an identity online and become an active member of the community. The need for traditional social skills in offline interactions is trumped by the emphasis on providing solutions for problems in web-based enviroments.

This video is a good reminder to design both the online community planning process and your community management approach in a way that builds commitment and trust between the question-askers and question-answerers in your community.

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