Be if football, baseball or poker, some activities are just not fun when you do them alone. Communities, real life or online based, are created with one goal in mind: to get needed people for some activates to happen and generate value. As much as in real life that can range from sport activities, to making the world a better place, in the online realm communities often were build around certain interest, and quickly became potent source of information and entertainment.
But for a while now, the on-line communities have been dying out. A quick surf around the web, and it seems the community portal illness has started around mid 2008, and by now has claimed many used-to-be buzzing community portals. How so?
- Community portals no longer fit the way we consume the Internet – let’s face it, going to a forum, logging in and browsing the content is time consuming and ineffective. With portals like Facebook claiming most of our on-line time, searching for anything on community portals seems tedious. With the current trend for convergence, where we pull together ways we consume the web into a single-portal consol (notice how Facebook offers anything from on-line games, to web-search and content pulling), activities unfit for this model fall into obscurity.
- Availability of content – remember how few years back, you had to ask on that cooking forum on where you can buy a rare spice, or asked on a medical forum if anyone had that exact set of symptoms like you did? Nowadays, chances are that the answer to your even most peculiar question is already somewhere on-line. With the multitude of content editors, ranging from bloggers to specialized “how-to” content-generators, we need less and less personal contact with other people to gain access to their knowledge and experience.
- Personalization of our social environment – forums and boards were very much like the benches in the park: most people could walk in, and sit there, unless a designed person said otherwise. Which in many cases meant, that the tone and troll-infestation of portals were at command of few people. But current products offer far greater personalization of who we let into our first-tier social circle, by allowing complicated systems of following, adding, liking, listing and blocking individuals. That sense of control is not available in traditional on-line communities.
Prediction: although there are still some community portals that do fairly well (like ikeafans.com), the derivation from traditional open-forum model is inevitable. Instead communities slowly try to fit themselves into Facebook – quite surprisingly there is a number of pages where people still keep the “community spirit” of sharing for everyone’s gain. Those communities are mostly build around such causes as sharing resources or helping each other with Facebook games like Restaurant City (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/group.php?gid=330950722420)
Implication: For marketers – stop dreaming that you can create a riveting forum or other community. For business owners – don’t let marketers bullsh!t you into believing they can create a riveting forum or other community for your brand.