I just read an blog post from Richard Millington over at Fever Bee called When A Short-Cut Takes You In An Opposite Direction. At the end of the article, he declares “If you want to sponsor a community, that’s fine. It gets your name in front of the right people. But it’s not even close to building one.”
I’ve been watching something very similar to this on the Cornhole Players Forum over the last couple of years. In my case, it’s a matter of participating in a community being more effective than sponsoring or advertising on a community.
I’ve always encouraged businesses to become active members of my communities. Growing up the son of 2 small business owners in a town of 100,000 people has taught me that personal relationships and customer service can be crucial. Advertising can be helpful, but word of mouth is a huge part of building and maintaining a successful brick and mortar business. The same is true in an online community. Business owners who are active members in my community have seen their workload increase in major ways. People love to be able to support somebody who they feel deserves it, or who they feel they have a relationship with on some level.
This isn’t to say that advertising on my communities is ineffective. Advertisers on my community are generally very happy, and I have a very low turnover rate. However, when it comes to word of mouth, or referrals within the community, it’s the active members who will receive the business. They may sell exactly the same thing as those who purchase advertising – often for more money – but they’ll receive the business a good chunk of the time.
If you are an advertiser on a community, consider taking the time to interact with the members of the community. You could find it to be very good for business!