What is an electronic community of interest? It's a hobby-type of environment where people share information, knowledge and insights about a single subject they are very interested in and often-passionate about.. For example, you may find an electronic community of interest for motorcycles. The community could be general motorcycle owners, or it could be more specific, such as owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles or racing Ducati's. Usually communities of interest are even more focused, for example owners of Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic's with the EVO engine. In reality, there are thousands of motorcycle e-communities of interest, and that's just one subject.
You could pick sailboats. You could pick hiking. You could pick just about any interest and you'll find a community of interest. In fact, just within Yahoo! there are hundreds of thousands of different communities of interest, and that number grows daily. In addition, there are hundreds and usually thousands of members in each community, and that's just within Yahoo!. I didn't mention Google, or Microsoft, or LinkedIn communities..
Imagine how many communities you'd find if you combined all the different companies that host communities, you would end up with a mind-boggling number.
Tapping into communities of interest can be very valuable for any business. For example, several years ago I was working with a company that was marketing a sports drink. They claimed that the benefit of their drink was rapid recovery after physical exertion. To spread their message, they were planning on doing a national television commercial about their product.
Before they were scheduled to run that big, expensive ad, I asked them, "What percent of the audience viewing that television commercial is going to be interested in rapid recovery?" Of course, the media company that was selling them the expensive ad had a percent, and it wasn't very large compared to the total number viewing the ad. But still, it represented a pretty good number...if they could convert them into buyers. Unfortunately, they'd never know if they converted them, because TV commercials are a static and one-way type of communication.
So I asked the sports drink company, "How many electronic communities of interest are there on Yahoo for triathlons?" They didn't know. But I had done my research, so I knew. At the time, there were 1,072 electronic communities of interest on the topic of triathlons. Keep in mind that's 1,072 communities, not individuals. Each community was made up of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of people interested in one thing: triathlons.
Then I asked, "What percent of those communities, made up of hundreds, and in most cases, thousands of people each, would be interested in rapid recovery from physical exertion?" Of course, the answer was 100%.
I continued my questions. "What if you got some leaders, some of the best triathletes, to try your drink and endorse it within those electronic communities? Would that work better than a traditional television ad?" And, of course, the answer was, "Yes. That's definitely better." It would cost substantially less too.
As you can see, electronic communities of interest can be a very powerful way to engage large groups of people who are focused and passionate about a single subject. You can join and engage in the conversation and, from a marketing standpoint, to understand your market better, to understand the people within your market, and to learn what people are doing with your products or services once they buy them.
And here's the best part: You can start a community of interest yourself, around your product or service, and with your users. In fact, there's no better way to keep your finger on the pulse of the marketplace so you can increase profits and drive long-term growth.
Ask yourself; could we use communities of interest to engage with potential customers, grow our brand awareness and grow our sales?