Communities – Charity vs. Brand, What’s The Difference?
Community Management as a discipline continues to gain pace and if there’s one thing most CMs agree on it is that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to management style, types of community or community goals. I had an email at the weekend from someone with questions relating to online communities for charities and what might be the best approach for creating them.
They were intrigued to find out whether there was any difference between those communities for charities and those for brands and whether the types of interaction were consistent. This started the cogs turning as I attempted to provide a response based on my experience and views. After much deliberating it seemed to boil down to two things; what the charity wanted to achieve and the nature of the conversations / interactions they were hoping to generate. Things like donations, decisions to take action or any other activities will likely come off the back of those conversations / interactions. A branded community may be more willing to provide a space for general chit-chat if there’s still an opportunity to drop a brand message in every now and again, I’m not sure whether that’s the case for charities given the nature of the subject at the core of the community offering. Users may be more use to brands throwing things their way but from a charity, would that really be what you are expecting?
I may be completely wrong on this one but for me there would seem to be a big difference between the approach for a charity compared with that of a brand. A brand will likely be able to get away with more of the “cheap” marketing tactics as people almost expect it while a charity has to work hard on two levels; 1) bringing people in to a community in the first place (what’s the driver to get someone talking) and 2) what do they offer to keep people there. I know there are a lot of successful charitable communities across the web but for one starting off I think they are going to need to look at it from a brand perspective rather than from the perspective of a charity. What’s the end goal? What’s the USP and what can we offer users? What resources are we going to put behind this activity? How do we promote this community and where? How long are we prepared to operate it for and what are the measure of success?
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this and whether the nature of conversations related to charities makes the act of establishing and managing a community a tougher proposition than for a brand.