With the first option there are associated risks. As companies who have taken this route have reported to have invested over a million dollars in building their own sites but have not managed to recover their costs.
"Thirty-five percent of the [corporate] online communities studied have less than 100 members; less than 25% have more than 1,000 members - despite the fact that close to 60% of these businesses have spent over $1 million on their community projects." ( Wall Street Journal 2008)
This seems pretty pitiful when you look at the membership of facebook, bebo, myspace, linked in, twitter etc. Though to be honest they shouldn't really be measuring in members, especially not initially. It is very difficult to become the next big thing overnight. Especially if you have a niche following. They should be more focused in encouraging quality engagements with users and offering them added value.
A brand must have enough appeal amongst its consumers to enable them to create a destination site solely focused around their brand and products. If consumers are not interested in the latest product developments or have a vested interest in engaging with the brand then the site is doomed to fail and are best joining an existing site or focusing on more traditional marketing techniques.
Dell has made a great destination site, mentioned in my post the other day. Due to the nature of the technology market, visitors are interested in the product, want to know about the latest products coming out. They also have a vested interest in interacting with the company as their comments are taken on board and feedback to the company to improve their offerings.
Fuji have taken a different approach due to the nature of their industry. They have chosen to create a site, Z-spot, surrounding their new product, Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd. The site isn't heavily branded however, it only has one banner ad half way down the page that you can click through to the Fujifilm product website. The main focus of the site is to promote their new 'Z Spot' events and nationwide competitions with the strategy of associating the camera with music, live events and social experiences. A fresh way of thinking in my view and one that may be more widely accepted by youths as it is not a direct sell, instead the brand has found a way of connecting with consumers on their terms and offering them extra value in terms of festivals. The idea being that they upload their pictures from the even onto the website, increasing stickiness and making the link between the events and the functional use of the camera. I learnt about it from crunchgear for those of you who wish to find out more.
Though a good idea, it is yet to be seen how impactive it will be on Fuji's image and sales as the camera isn't very visible of the page. Even the name isn't clear on the banner due to the badly pixelated image. Being an image expert, surely they should have at least got this right?!
The other option for brands is to join an existing social network, such as many brands have done on facebook, some being more successful than others. O2 have used it quite well promoting 02 university events and competitions. Though not all companies have done this successfully. Cadbury's did have a few pages dedicated to their different chocolate bars and included adverts on the site but failed to create any real engagement with consumers, with hardly any wall posts, unsuprising as they made no effort to encourage any. Needless to say these ages can no longer be found.
Click here to follow the debate on facebook by various online marketers and enthusiasts.