Virtual Community

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Virtual Community Marketing

including Business-to-Business, Business-to-Consumer, and P2P (Peer-to-Peer and Progressive-to-Progressive) initiatives

True virtual communities, in the original sense, assembled themselves around  shared interests and/or obsessions, whether professional or personal, using  newsgroups, then listservs, and most recently on web-based forums. These technologies provided their members with environments where they could share the data and lore of an arcane topic with other devotees of that field. In the current "web entrepreneurship" era, these ideas have evolved into business strategies.  

An affiliation-based marketing strategy, when successful, identifies a niche market of consumers who "represent" a community, but are really only an assemblage of customers. They share an interest in certain products or in the perceived commercial value a brand represents, but little else. This is not the same as membership in an online social group with a shared set of values.  

Most large, successful Internet marketers call their brand or affiliation strategies virtual communities, regardless that they only mimic them. They understand that affiliation communities have extraordinary stickiness (eager members who participate regularly) and so they attempt to create the feeling of community where it may not naturally exist, by courting their customers into feeling a sense of community. They evoke these feelings of intimacy and loyalty through a combination of personalization technologies and a program of e-mail outreach.

A virtual community is truly achieved when the participants want it to exist, need it to exist, find it useful and satisfying, and use it to maintain personal relationships with individuals and sub-groups, regardless of the intent of the community developers.

The next step in the evolution of virtual communities is the economic virtual community, which is essentially a co-op buying plan in cyberspace. This new and advanced business model is likely to be the wave of the future, according to a number of very smart people.  

We particularly recommend you read the book, Net Gains, by John Hagel III and Arthur Armstrong.  The sub-title says it all, "expanding markets through virtual communities". These highly regarded McKinsey & Co. consultants explain, in rigorous B-school fashion, how economic virtual communities will out-compete current sales strategies in convincing style early in the 21st century.

PIA is committed to exploring the development of economic virtual communities, and is looking for clients and alliance partners with the vision and resources to pursue this innovative strategy. 


Ready to get started? Call Dick Jones to discuss our services, or email  DickJones AT pia.net 
 

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