The Marketing "C" Word

My marketing "C" word is: Community.

In this time of social media and online research, it's a word that's being terribly abused and misunderstood. So, inspired by a Canadian comedy troupe's recent hilarious take on "Tights (leggings) are not Pants (trousers)" ... I'd like to explore why the groups of people comprising most Market Research Samples, Marketing Panels, Facebook Groups, Focus Groups, User Segments, Employee Groups, Idea Jams, etc. are NOT a Community.

Let's take an Online Marketing Panel, for example. Brands are told that by assembling a group of customers onto a digital platform and asking them research questions with some moderated discussions a few times a year, that this is a "Brand Community." The promise is that this group will represent the Voice of the Customer. Real predictive market insight will emerge. They will provide great product ideas for Open Innovation. Governments and non-profits are told the same thing about Online Citizen Panels.

I've heard even brands and practitioners speak of one-week Voice of the Customer market research campaigns. And once-a-year Open Innovation online crowdsourcing initiatives. The word "Community" is used liberally in both cases.

Let's be honest. We all know intuitively that you can't build a real Community in a week. It doesn't seem logical that a Community would only interact once (or twice or four times) a year. It feels restrictive to have everyone's online communications so managed and moderated. In reality, these are classic market research initiatives cloaked in the new vocabulary of the Participation Economy.

So, if these aren't Communities, what is a digital marketing Community? How do you build one? How do you keep it vibrant? How do stakeholder Communities contribute to disruptive innovation?