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Who Needs People? Who Needs an Online Community?

by Mary Brenneman (03/17/09).

Joe Works

Joe Works

If you are one of those people who asks, “Who cares about being in an online community?” or “Why should I spend any time being an active member of WorthPoint?” then this article is for you.

On Monday, March 16, Kevin Tibbles reported a story on “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” that made it crystal clear why community is important. Joe Works, an aptly named entrepreneur in tiny Humboldt, Kan., is making a difference in his community. His business, B&W, makes trailer hitches, and business is slow. Joe’s apparently made a little money over the years, and he just couldn’t bring himself to lay off people. Instead, he’s putting them to work—at full wages—sprucing up playgrounds, pruning trees and giving some churches an exterior makeover.

As a chamber of commerce representative puts it, “If people aren’t getting paid, then they can’t buy groceries at the local grocery store. They can’t buy gas at the local gas station or eat lunch at the local restaurant.”

630 miles for a trailer hitch

I called Joe, but he was out of the office at lunch. I left him a message. I told him if I ever needed a trailer hitch, I was driving from Colorado to Kansas and buying it from B&W—and I meant it. Full disclosure—I may not ever need one, but that’s how strongly I felt about Joe and B&W. I don’t know Joe, and he doesn’t know me.

If I feel that strongly, how do you think the folks in his town feel about B&W? And what about those employees—I bet they aren’t padding their time card or taking long lunches. And what about the thousands of people who saw this story and just may want a trailer hitch this year—I’m guessing quite a few of them will remember Joe and B&W. (They may not drive to Kansas, but they just might order online.)

Joe is building community, and in building community, he’s building long-lasting customer relationships.

Building communities—online or off—one customer at a time

I think most of you will see the analogy without me explaining it. But there are always some folks who want the dotted lines connected, and that’s OK with me. So here goes—today most of us don’t live in small towns like Humboldt. We form communities in different ways. We reach out to our customers anyway we can, and for most businesses, that now includes online. But how do you develop the same type of relationships online that you do in person? That is what WorthPoint is all about for the art, antiques and collecting community.

You reach out to others who share your interests. You can comment on stories and build out your profile page, inviting your friends. You can answer questions with good, solid information. And as we build out the site, you’ll be able to do even more.

Please, let us know . . .

I’d really like to hear from you on this subject. Is community important to you and your business? What do you do to build lasting relationships with your customers online? What do you do or want to do to get exposure for your inventory?

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One Response to “Who Needs People? Who Needs an Online Community?”

  1. Chris Hughes Chris Hughes says:

    Nice article and very nice business owner!

    As a collector and dealer in antiques and collectibles, I recognize how communities are essential on the Internet.

    I have learned long ago that my collecting interests do not appeal to my wife, my family, or my immediate friends. I am like a pressure cooker building up steam and Internet communities are my release valve where I can to talk shop with fellow collectors, learn more about my collectibles, buy, trade, etc.

    As a dealer, communities are my means to build exposure and make friends who will turn into buyers of my items. By participating in communities, I let people know who I am and what I specialize in.

    E-commerce does not have to be impersonal. Communities are a tool that all dealers should be using to promote honestly and value in their items.

    Even if you already have a website, it doesn’t stop there. The Internet is FILLED with websites. You need distinguish yourself from the rest by building your brand in communities.

    —Chris

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