Kathy Sierra very elegantly charts the connection between user community and ROI.
The more your users participate the less money you need.
It can be frustrating when you cannot exactly pinpoint the ROI for any activity. This is a ready-made answer exactly for questions regarding community.
Surprisingly I have been more comfortable with people asking why community than the ones who go ahead without pondering over it. It is important to question for two reasons:
- designing the platform and tools for the community – right from whether you should go with blogs, forums, wikis, chatrooms or all of them
- knowing the effort to develop the community
The problem that I have encountered that too many communities are being created, with effort receding with time. The technology involved in creating online communities has almost made it a commodity. If you read Kathy’s post you will realize that communities are hardly about the technology, they are more about people, communication and attention. It is important for the one who creates the community to keep attending to it unless it reaches a tipping point in terms of active users. This can include answering questions, checking spam or making sure it is not misused. This is no trivial effort.
It is important to realize that the community will have to be backed by someone till it can grow enough to feed itself. Though starting communities has become trivial, developing and maintaining them is not. If this effort is not doable, it might be a better choice to postpone creating the community itself.