Creating Customer Communities: Two different innovations in conversation

Valaria Moltoni, scion of the site Conversation Agent, has advocated (as many other have too) that you can benefit from creating communities of customers. On a recent post, she showed a cute video by Intel about how engineers love nerdy jokes.  It highlighted to me the difference between creating a customer community for a B2C product and one for a B2B product.  In a B2C realm, you can create customer communities with end consumers.  Kraft has done an amazing job of this over the years with their Kraft recipes site, and my firm Diamond helped Southwest Airlines create their community site.

But the challenge in B2B is that often the product or service is customized to the needs of the buyer, and the community is very varied.  There are technicians and scientists who specify the needs for the product; there are installers and maintainers who get the product into the company, and the end users may be scientists or doctors or engineers.  The question is, how does the audience "gather" around your product or service?  I believe the key is communities of practice, usually defined by a number of professions within them.

For example, the Intel video points out, there are expert communities who love math and science.  In the field of radiology and imaging there is a very popular site with the quirky name, They claim to be the largest community of radiology and imaging professionals and participants -- a community of practice if you will.  This very specific kind of community is the type of place where I believe B2B companies can make headway.  I know when I as on the board of Amicas, a radiologic image management company which was acquired recently by Merge Healthcare (NASDAQ: MRGE), our marketing department did pay attention to Aunt Minnie and the participants in that community.

So, have you figured out which customer communities and/or communities of practice you need to participate in?

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