Fast Company

Building a New Nest

Smart companies are launching niche online communities--and getting out of the way.

There's nothing lamer than a product with its own MySpace page (well, except for Larry Hagman's MySpace page). Advertisers, who will spend an estimated $865 million on social networking in 2007, are beginning to realize they can get more value by launching their own targeted community sites. Company-created social-networking sites aren't new, but the latest iterations are focused on achievable goals, not cool points. Here are three examples.

Stroke the fan base: Turner Broadcasting's SuperDeluxe.com deepens its relationship with young men who love comedy and already watch TBS and Adult Swim. The site features original comedic shorts and series, as well as community features for comedy fans with similar tastes to find each other.

Build a community: Intuit is linking up entrepreneurs and letting them help one another via its new community JumpUp.com. The site was originally meant to provide tools and advice for budding business owners. But after hearing from users who wanted to get information from fellow entrepreneurs, Intuit quickly added social-networking functions, letting members find others by geography or industry. "We've made a really conscious decision to not make this a sales site for our products," says Intuit VP Lisa Gevelber.

Get in touch: By de-emphasizing the hard sell, companies hope they'll get better information about what customers really want. Procter & Gamble recently launched a couple of community sites in hopes of learning more about its critical 18- to 49-year-old demographic. One, Capessa, features content created by female consumers on topics including health and parenting--without promoting specific brands. "By understanding these consumers and giving them a place to express themselves," P&G spokeswoman Robyn Schroeder says, "we feel that ultimately we'll be able to develop products that meet their needs."

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