The power of Online Communities: Best practices – Part 2

large__3040979981In part 1 of the power of Online Communities: best practices,  I talked about three best practices: LEGO’s Click community (commercial), DELL’s Ideastorm community (commecial) and the OnePercentClub community (non-commercial). I will now show you three other very interesting success examples of commercial and non-commercial brand communities.

Best practice 1: WNF’s communities (non-commercial)


WNF (World Wide Fund for Nature) Netherlands is very active when it comes to building online communities. In 2009, the organization found out that amateur photographers on the community (a photography community) were actively posting and sharing animal photos. WNF decided to create an own group within this community. The group is targeted at photographers who feel passionate about photographing nature and wild animals in specific. Currently, this group consists of 1200 highly active and enthusiastic members. Besides high levels of engagement among its members, WNF has without any costs a unique offer of high quality animal pictures. WNF also built a community on the existing travellers community: WNF thought it would be a great opportunity to create a WNF group on this community. The group currently consists of over 3000 members who all share their worldwide experience of nature in their blogs, with pictures and videos. On the website you can read authentic stories from workers and volunteers working in the WNF field. You can also meet the raw reality in video and image:

Best practice 2: Oxfam Novib’s Doenersnet community (non-commercial)

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Doenersnet is a very lively, successful Dutch online community initiated by Oxfam Novib. With the ideas and input of existing volunteers/brand advocates, the website was launched in 2008.  At the moment (September, 2012) it has 1883 highly active and engaged community members. The community targets do-it-your-selfers who want to help creating a fair world without poverty. On the community, campaigns and actions are initiated by the organization that members can support. You can sign up for volunteer work or start a Doenersnet pitch: you can win 5000 euro for your world-improving idea. Members can think of campaigns, start make a shout, donate or share knowledge.

Best practice 3: HarperCollins’ Inkpop community (commercial)

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Inkpop is one of the first interactive writing platforms for teens. It was launched in 2009 by HarperCollins – one of the world’s leading English-language publishers. Inkpop combines community publishing, user-generated content and social networking to connect aspiring writers of teen literature with talent-spotting readers and publishing professionals.  Funny Garbage likes to call it: “crowd-sourced publishing“. Writers can post their books, short stories, book ideas, letters and poetry.  From the pick list, the Inkpop community chooses their favourite pieces and has the option to give constructive criticism in the comments area”. Susan Katz, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, says: “The opinions of our readers matter to us. Inkpop is HarperCollins Children’s Books’ first site (and not the last) to really put the users’ voice and ideas in the forefront. Social media   is incredibly empowering if used correctly, and HarperCollins recognizes this and is gearing up to make social media the cornerstone of all its digital endeavours” (Abrams, 2011):

“In March 2012, Inkpop merged together with Figment, another successful writers community. At the time of the merge, InkPop had 95,000 users and Figment had 115,000 users, with little overlap between the two sites.Susan Katz, the HarperCollins Children’s Book president, said of the move: “We approached Figment because we’ve admired what they are doing in the digital space. Together we can broaden our marketing reach for our authors and their stories by tapping into this highly engaged group.” (Wikipedia).

Other amazing examples of very successful brand communities include:

  • Starbuck’s MyStarbucksIdea community – similar concept as Dell’s Ideastorm. Members are encouraged to share their ideas, vote and join the discussion:
  • Harley-Davidson launched a successful online brand community to give their fans a great online experience. Their online community efforts make it easy for fans to connect with other members and talk about their shared passion for motorcycles:
  • Tudiabetes – an online community of people touched by diabetes, run by the Diabetes Hands Foundation. The community currently has 13,000 highly active and passionate members:
  • (meaning: healthy lungs) – a platform initiated by the Dutch Asthma Foundation. On this website you can sign up, think of your action/campaign and ask your family, friends and/or colleagues to support you:

It is always good to study best practices and see what lessons can be drawn from it. Although the best practices that mentioned here are not all non-commercial oriented, non-profits can still learn from them. Most of the examples given (commercial and non-commercial) are communities targeted at young people. These communities have quite a similar target group, probably a similar goal (engagement), but just a different mission. Therefore, studying existing success examples is always insightful. But of course, it is also important to study (and learn from) examples that failed.

I will elaborate more on what can be learned from best practices, like the ones in this post in the upcoming posts.

So far, I have provided a basic understanding on the concept of online communities and how brands are using them to create significant business value. I also stressed the importance for non-profit organizations to invest in their brand by means of online (community) efforts. Before non-profits start to seriously consider investing in an online community, it is important that they first clearly understand how these communities work.

If non-profits understand why people join online communities, it will be easier for them to decide upon important elements like the content or platform choice. Understanding how online communities evolve in stages and what roles people play in them, will allow non-profits to manage their possible community more effectively.

In the coming posts I will also focus on how non-profits can foster and sustain engagement in an online community. Understanding this issue can help them in the creation process of the online community. All these items will be discussed in the coming posts!

Until next time,

Anne-Sophie Gaspersz

Photo credit: Socceraholic via photopin cc

Photography: Abdulrahman AlZe3bi

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