Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Building a Community….Step 1

My company Ivara operates in a fantastic market that is full of opportunities to engage with a robust, knowledgeable group of employees, customers, competitors and thought leaders.  While the current economy presents challenges for us and our customers alike it is also a great opportunity for us to band together and share our experiences (good and bad) and help each other come out the other end of this downturn a stronger, more profitable and better serving community than we were before.  To that end we all have to do our part in the community and it starts with adding value.  I am a huge Twitter participant and one of the biggest messages that you get from engaging in this medium is exactly that…engage! 

Like everything in life, you get out of something what you put into it and when building a community you should always be making deposits into the community bank so that at some point you are able to make a withdrawal.  As I am familiar with it I will use my industry as an example but it could be applicable to any industry.  Our industry is focussed on supporting industries on the road to operational excellence and providing people, process and technology to facilitate and sustain change in their organization ensuring improved uptime, productivity and quality from their operations.  Many operational and maintenance folks are not entrenched in the online world to the same extent we are….and why would they be?  Historically, other than personal interest, there has not been a ton of value add content and guidance online to assist them in improving how their assets run and are maintained.  This is the first challenge in building a community….providing enough valuable content consistently for them to want to engage with you using a new medium. 

How do you get offline people online???

In a word…persistence!  Over weeks, months and years continue to provide meaningful free content for people so they can use what you know to improve their business and solve their day to day business problems.  Then connect the content to the people.  The content can be delivered in an immeasurable number of ways.  We have started in the last year or so with a program to deliver blog posts, twitter updates and webinars online in addition obviously to the company website.  All of these are good delivery vehicles especially at the beginning where less sophistication for your community is probably better.  We have now added a free online reliability conference that is open to any and all customers as well as some prospects.  What works in your space?  Give it some thought, plan out some ideas, throw out some trial balloons and feel your way along.  the only thing I know 100% for sure is you MUST start and you must start now.  If you don’t someone else will.  Be there for your customer and community, be a leader and show them you are committed not to your own success but to theirs and that you want to provide them with tools, ideas, resources that will help make them look like stars in their organization.

I am fortunate that we have a community with many other people who are true experts in our field who have been forging the path online for us to follow.  It is now time for me and our Ivara to step and contribute to the community and make our overdue contributions to the community bank.

How has it been building a community in your industry?  What lessons have you learned?  please share so we can all learn and foster healthy, vibrant communities in our respective spaces.

We have a long way to go but I am committed and persistent and believe in our community!

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