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September 22, 1999
Leveraging chat is monetising eyeballs in real timeNeena Haridas at Pragati Maidan
Says Bruce Dembecki, senior manager, community operations, Talkcity: "When we have a billion computers hooked together talking to each other what we really have is an eighth continent... a continent with its own culture, economy and rules. And marketers need to realise the potential of this market waiting to be tapped."
Easier said than tapped, online communities are far too many and far too diverse for a common denominator that the companies can zero in on.
Here is where, says Dembecki, content providers can build a niche market by building their own communities, leverage on these online chats and monetise on it.
According to Dembecki, building online communities requires establishing standards and a culture. He says most sites start off with strict standards and rules but end up not maintaining any.
Besides, he says, in order to get the chat members coming back to the site, there should be active participation involving live events, topical discussions and special events.
"Only such interactions will bring a feeling of belonging among the members of the community and thus build a home," he adds.
And like any other home, the site should provide the members a way of expressing himself, herself through personal Web pages, email, search engines etc. This way the community becomes complete with a place for everyone and something for everyone available on it.
Once the community is in place with a culture and behavioural pattern, corporations can leverage on chatlines for selling products and services and conducting research and surveys.
Says Dembecki, "One of the most important use of a chat community is that one can pick up a focus group and use this as an inexpensive mode of research and survey. Conventional research and survey methods are expensive and time consuming, however, using an online community saves both."
Another important way of leveraging chats is by getting members to answer specific question about products.
Explains Dembecki, "When a company is looking for specific answers it is irrational to indulge in expensive survey methods to get those. For instance, when Coca-Cola decided to redesign its Web page, it offered the chat community seven choices and asked them what they would like best. They got an answer quick and at a minimal cost. The Talkcity communities are more often used as samples for such surveys. Besides, corporations can even use these chat communities to test market their products and services. It becomes easier for the members too take part in all these survey and research because they don't have to move from their desk to do so."
Once the community is in place, it attracts advertisements from the corporations as they have a focus group to address. Banner ads, sponsorships and interactive customer relationships become possible.
In fact, various chat communities could be networked to get a super community that serves a greater number of demands.
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