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Top 10 Online Community Mistakes

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Many a company just tosses a "community page" onto the corporate website, expecting people to show up in droves. That plan may work, but it's extremely unlikely. Nancy Strauss, coauthor of Online Community Handbook: Building Your Business and Brand on the Web, shares her top-10 list of reasons that corporate online communities fail.

An online community can offer your brand great benefits, from customer insights and loyalty to PR and viral marketing. It can increase sales and give your brand a powerful competitive edge. It can even become a new revenue source in its own right. The possibilities are so exciting that some companies leap in and launch community projects without a clear understanding of where they're headed. When that happens, they often make mistakes that can ultimately sink an online community.

But you won't fall into these traps. Read on for an overview of common online community pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: Unrealistic Timeline

If you launch your site today, don't expect results tomorrow. Building an online community is a slow process, and setting up the actual website is the least of it. You need to grow a base of loyal users, achieving a certain volume and momentum. This process takes time, and even more time will likely be needed before the community starts showing concrete business benefits.

Before going into the project, you need to be prepared for the long haul. Do you have adequate resources and support? Or will your company expect an immediate return on the investment? If you need measurable results for next week's marketing meeting, starting an online community probably isn't the way to go. In that case, you might look at faster options such as marketing on existing social networks. On the other hand, if you have time to build a real community, you'll be creating a valuable asset for your company's future.

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