Build or join?

This could also be called BMBY: The Billionaire’s edition after Fred Wilson (billionaire #1) got me thinking about a few things.

I’ve been reading about Viacom suing Google/YouTube. Essentially, they want $1bn for copyright infringement. As Fred says, its clearly a negotiating tactic, designed to give Viacom extra leverage as it tries to do a deal with the Internet behemoth.

Mark Cuban (billionaire #2), an outspoken critic of YouTube and of Google’s (billionaires #3 and #4) acquisition of the Web2.0 phenom, has this say about why no-one should be doing deals with YouTube:

I have a secret for you. ITS EASY FOR END USERS TO UPLOAD video to Youtube and Google VIdeo. ITS EASIER FOR THE CONTENT OWNER to do the same thing.

To me, this raises an interesting question:

Should you join a community or start your own?

As someone advising clients on how to market using the Web and social media, it’s the ultimate existential question.

1. Joining the Community

If there’s already a passionate and active community base, it makes sense to engage them on their own terms, where they feel the most comfortable. But…

2. Grow your own

By enabling a commuity to grow around your purpose built widget, site, blog or whatever, you enable a far deeper engagement with your brand than if you just sponsored a podcast, left comments on a blog or bought ads in a Web site. The downside to this is, clearly, not all brands are ready for a community.

3. The alternative

While the ultimate goal is to make your organization a trusted source of information, a leader in the field and the hub of a community of passionate users, the first step is a small one. Find out where the conversations and chatter around your brand are and get involved. Interact with your customers and stakeholders. Have a real conversation with them. Once you’re part of the community you can start to Instigate. Lead those conversations, become the reason for the buzz and the source of the chatter.

The BMBY recommendations for building a community

Monitor. Assess. Interact. Lead


Get: Informed; Immersed; Interactive; Involved; Instigating (previously i-ddicted)

Sound familiar?


5 Responses to Build or join?

  1. Good advice – I like “look, listen, learn, lead” as an easy to remember philosophy for newbies in anything, particularly new media.

  2. I think a lot of companies are asking that same question regading SecondLife. Now, join. See how it’s adopted. See the response. See the demograhics. Judge.

    But, soon, some will be building their own virtual world.

    Like everything else, it all depends on what the companies think is most beneficial in the big picture.

  3. Andrew says:

    Interesting post.

    On a smaller scale, I faced this same scenario when starting my Real Estate Blog. I decided that joining an existing community made the most sense. I’m now blogging about Real Estate for So far, things are working out great.

  4. […] Ed Lee looks at the three options for reaching an audience with social media. […]

  5. […] and years ago, when social media was still in its nascency, my view on communities was “join then build” – brands should find the communities most relevant to them, join them, add value, […]

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