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AIMS event - Building Online Communities

This past Wednesday, I attended the Association of Internet Marketing and Sales of Canada event on “Building Online Community”. It had a good line-up of speakers featuring Robert V. Kozinets, Assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University, Jennifer Evans of Sequentia Communications, and Lee Dale of Smack Inc.

The event explored the theories and applications of online communities and demonstrated a variety of ways for building communities. Below is a summary of the conference with some key take-aways.

Robert Kozinets started off the day’s sessions with an academic description on the meaning of a community. One thing that really resonated with me was his comment “unless you’re willing to talk, don’t enter into the conversation”. It is a really good advice for anyone looking to create and grow an online community.


Robert then went on to explain two different kinds of communities:


1. Caring and Sharing Communities:

  • Communal ideals: a group of people living in close proximity with mutual social relations characterized by caring and sharing.
  • Community based on civic engagement, a sense of belonging, and social contribution (Putnam 2000)
  • Trust, deep emotional commitment
  • “insider” relations

2.  Transaction-Based Communities:

  • Provides more formal, contractual, socially distanced relations.
  • Relations are transaction-based and mainly occur for the purpose of exchange
  • More self-focused, zero-sum, profit-oriented, gain-based relations
  • Transacting or trading with “outsiders”

He ended his presentation with an interesting metaphor where he linked the role of managing communities to beekeeping.


Following Robert was Jennifer Evans. She started her presentation with some interesting facts about communities: 


         Every organization and company has a community

         All communities have lifecycles

         Community members generate 56% more revenue than non-members (Harvard Business Review, 2006)

         1-5% of your community members will spur most of the activity

         Prospective members evaluate whether they will join a community based on the content, the vibrancy and the fit

         60% of your community members will only participate passively

         Communities mature 24-36 months into their lifespan

         Community members are the best route to community membership expansion


She then described how B2B companies and marketers can use community to increase customer loyalty, market intelligence, profit and revenue within their customer base. Jennifer closed her presentation with her belief that good content has longevity and lead generation has long past its initial creation.


The final presentation was by Lee Dale. He started off by describing three key characteristics to building and nurturing a community:

  1. Consciousness of kind
  2. Shared rituals and traditions
  3. Moral responsibility

Lee concluded his presentation with case studies and examples of how companies are building communities to complement their brands.

Thanks to Robert, Jennifer, Lee and everyone else who organized this event. I had a great time.





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