Building Brandwidth in the Web 2.0 Economy, and the upcoming Web 3.0

The Legions who follow:

Microsoft communities are a great example of how a great concept is poorly executed. Linux newsgroups are communities. The people in these groups know each other have get-togethers, and help each other out. The Microsoft newsgroups are a harsh unforgiving place where the regulars often poke fun at the newbies who have questions. Those lucky enough to find answer still tend to find the places cold and unfeeling and not a place they would choose to continue hanging out. There are a few good communities within the Microsoft umbrella, I’m partial to WMTalk, but this community thrives more as a result of its users and the TLC they give the list than the amount of interaction it receives from Microsoft. The off list meetings that the group has had weren’t attended or supported by Microsoft employees, and the amount of feedback that Microsoft employees have given (or are possibly allowed to give) on marketability, feasibility, or legality of some of the topics is negligible. This leaves the group feeling separated from the “team” in that they don’t feel any sense of loyalty or ownership in the process.

Apple’s community is so strong that people will line up around the block to get the next new operating system. Or in the case of Gary Allen and his son hop on a plane and go to Japan, stand in the rain for hours just to get a free t-shirt and be able to say they were there when Apple came to Tokyo.

"It was definitely the most exciting grand opening of all the stores I’ve been to, My wife doesn’t quite understand the fascination, I try to explain to her it’s a social experience. It’s a fun thing. But Tokyo in the rain. She was mystified by that."

–Gary Allen

This is what Social Networking is all about. Myspace wishes they had the community that Apple or Linux has. They certainly wish they had the brand loyalty that Apple has. iTunes listing what songs are in your play list is just one more way of enhancing your community. By asking users to take part and share in the experience they make using their products an event. And this isn’t limited to just online. The experience follows the users into the real world.

"She walked right up to me and got within my comfort field," Crandall stammered. "I was taken aback. She pulled out the earbuds on her iPod and indicated the jack with her eyes."

Warily unplugging his own earbuds, Crandall gingerly plugged them into the woman’s iPod, and was greeted by a rush of techno.

"We listened for about 30 seconds," Crandall said. "No words were exchanged. We nodded and walked off."

Apple goes out of its way to make products feature rich not just feature complete. It isn’t about giving you products that do everything you need, it is about giving you features you hadn’t thought to want, and often making those features social. Geeks are very social creatures despite popular belief, but the level of development for those social skills are varied.

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