Saw this very fascinating post on the blog of Professor Robert V. Kozinets. I have tried to use Netnography, the methodology he proposed to study online communities. I always thought of consumer communities as self-formed or at least easy enough to join. And of course the one I use most is related to travel- Indiamike.com.
And then I came across this post on his blog about a company that manages communities for clients. He writes-
That raises a big question for me. Is there a difference between the kind of “community” or tribe you get in a “community” that is created or sponsored by a website and the one you get emerging spontaneously, implicitly motivated and flowering on its own.
Communispace is a fascinating company that pays people $10 a month to form an artifically constructed brand community (and yes, they use the brand community terminology). They sell “private” (as in gated and controlled) online communities. Every consumer is fully identified and accountable. “Bad” (non-participating) members are bumped off. Messages are moderated. Communispace acts as the buffer zone between the world of real consumers and the corporate customers.
I tried searching on the Communispace website like a harried customer who needs quick information to see if one could become a member of any of the communities there. Couldn’t find much, only the feeling that the membership is by invitation only?
Sounds very strange, at least to me.