There's a Catch-22 in deciding whether or not to invest in trying to nurture one or more online customer communities. The biggest issue in my mind is not, "will customers say bad things about us?" The answer to that question is, "Of course, some customers will be critical, but other customers will be complimentary. It's better to have at least some control over the conversation by hosting it, than it is to be at the mercy of the discussions customers are having elsewhere on the Internet."
The more important question, to my mind, is "will the community take hold?" Why would your customers or prospects want to converse with one another in and around your products or services? The answer is that they really don't want to talk about you or your products. They want to talk about themselves: What they are trying to do; what they care about; and, also many of them actually enjoy helping others who share similar jobs, interests and passions, it's kind of a quid pro quo. "I'll help/encourage you. You or someone else will help/encourage me."
What Kinds of Online Communities Are There?
There are many different kinds of online customer communities:
- Customer Support communities are typically the best place to start for any company that has technical products or for one that provides services to help people get things done.