There is a 15 mile coast in Kaui known as the Na Pali coast!

Much of it is inaccessible due to its sheer cliffs that drop straight down, 1000s of feet into the ocean. But it is beautiful! I went to view it in a helicopter and in a boat to get both views. You can also hike there but they say it is hard but it is well worth the trip!

So, how does this relate to Social Media? The reason people come here is the breathtaking view and the jagged coast. It is not because of smooth lines, and no issues. No, it is because of the balance in edginess and somewhat in the exclusivity in viewing.

This is why I believe that communities that are private or invitation only are going to be the big hit. As Jimmy Wales said “Communities can build amazing things, but you have to be part of that community and you can’t abuse them. You have to be very respectful of what their needs are.”

Think about how many open communities are out there and how much time you have. It is tough to join the many that exist out there today. But communities that are restrictive — like Harley Davidson who has a huge online and offline community but you have to have a VIN number to get in! Or Adobe’s biomedical community that is invitation only. Or even our IBM Software Partner community in LinkedIn that is by acceptance only.

It changes the game. I believe that creating great communities involves a few key points: (taken from “The New Language of Marketing 2.0):

Key elements of the Community
In order to build a B2B Community you need to meet these three key goals:
1. Build an understanding of the needs of the Community and an in-depth understanding of which of those needs are provided by existing organisations and how this Community could provide additional facilities, information and interaction to make it a viable entity
2. Develop a trusted environment; this can be built by engaging with a senior level group of individuals to form the core of the Community
3. Work with the core group to begin to deliver the essential content that will draw members into the Community.

Best practices:
1. It Has to Be Their Community – Not Yours
a. It needs to be independent – there is a massive difference between a company x user group and a Community sponsored by company x.
b. It should have an independent chair recruited from the ranks of the Community who is enabled to run the Community
c. Topics, discussions, etc within the Community must be driven by the members
2. You Need to Answer Their Needs – Not Yours
a. It has to provide the information they want – not the information you want to give them
b. It’s not about your products or services, it’s about building true business intelligence about your Community
3. It Must Be a ‘Trusted’ Environment
a. It must be a trusted environment a place where they feel comfortable they can share their issues with their peers in a closed environment – most high level B2B communities are very restrictive on press and vendor access.
4. B2B Communities Are about People not Technology
a. One of the key differences between B2B and B2C communities are that B2B communities need to be driven, they don’t tend to grow by osmosis so they need dedicated people interacting with the community creating content making sure new things are happening answering members needs etc.
b. Don’t get hung up on technology – yes the platform is important but a Community with poorer technology driven by the right people with drive and empathy for the Community will always be more successful than a community that is dependent on technology alone.

B2B Communities Succeed Because They Do a Number of Things:

1. The Community Empowers the Members
The Community must be run by the members to deliver the services they want.
2. They Give the Members What They Want
Above all, the compelling content will draw members into the Community.
3. They Have Passion
The Community manager needs to develop with the Community a content schedule, conferences, events, panels, webinars, surveys, polls etc. both online and offline that cover the most important issues and generate the passion for the subject matter, the debate and as a result the Community.
4. They Are For People Like Me
Our experience runs counter to the web myth that you should make it as easy as possible to join. In our experience members respect having to qualify and the fact that not everyone can join. In most of the communities in which we are involved over 30 per cent of applications to join are turned down.

This is essential. It says to the Community: ‘This is your group, it is for people like you, and when you join a significant part of the value is that only senior executives like you can take part’. Community members want to be assured they are with people like them.

5. The Community Allows Members to Collaborate
One of the key benefits to members of the Community is the ability to collaborate in two key ways:
1. To resolve common issues. Typically the core group will decide on a monthly basis what the key issues are affecting the Community and ask small groups of people from within the group to collaborate to produce white papers addressing these issues.
In this way all the group members benefit. Not only do members receive help from like-minded executives in other organisations to address the issue most pressing for them but they also receive the benefits of all the other whitepapers addressing key issues that are or probably will affect them. Because of this their productivity is massively enhanced and their perceived ability in their own organisation increases dramatically.
2. To build business together, certain communities benefit enormously from the fact that the community gives them the opportunity and technology to enable them to discover and work in collaboration with other members of the community.
3. Social networking (though in a very restricted way) is another very important element in the success of a B2B community.

Communities Must Offer Multiple Ways to Interact
There is no such thing as an online Community. Very quickly as the group forms they will want to interact in multiple ways both online and offline and it is essential to the success of the Community that this interaction is both enabled and encouraged. The Community must therefore offer multiple ways to interact. So while the on-line element is the ‘glue’ that sticks it all together, B2B communities are based on trust and trust only comes following face to face engagement – so regular meetings and events are vital to the success of a B2B community.

What do you think it takes to drive a great community?