- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 6th Printing edition (January 23, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0875847595
- ISBN-13: 978-0875847597
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,305,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Net Gain: Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities Hardcover – January 23, 1997
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Building relationships with customers has been a buzz phrase in many business circles for years. Now John Hagel and Arthur Armstrong declare that's not enough. They make a strong case that business success in the very near future will depend on using the Internet to build not just relationships, but communities. The payoff, they maintain, will be phenomenal customer loyalty and high profits. But, they warn, this race will definitely go to the swift. Here's a cyberspace book that could make your business future. Not everyone agrees with Hagel and Armstrong, but with stakes so high they deserves a serious reading.
From Library Journal
According to Hagel and Armstrong, both with the multimedia firm McKindey & Company, virtual communities are the marketplaces of the future. Representing more than a physical place on the Internet, they are an evolution in business dynamics. By providing a common forum on the Internet for consumers to share information, the authors argue, vendors are seeking access to these valuable market enclaves, hence creating a power shift from the vendor to the customer. The authors clearly demonstrate their professional experience and business acumen regarding this new market forum. Their book is a manifesto for a generation of entrepreneurs hoping to learn about the future of the online economy. Recommended for those seriously interested in the direction of business markets.?Dennis Krieb, St. Charles Cty. Community Coll. Lib., St. Peters, Mo.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Up until this book, I have seen little written on the longer term business models on how to make money by aggregating users. This book will explain the rationale of why there is enormous value in web sites with a large base of users.
The book has a very interesting chart which describes the return on various strategic investments for a startup trying to build a virtual community. The conclusion was that far and away the most important investments were vendor acquisition (i.e. companies wanting to sell products to the members of the community), member-generated content, and member acquisition. Interestingly, usage fees for the site had an enormous long-term negative impact for the site (despite their short term ability to generate revenue).
There are a couple of points that I think were not well addressed in this book:
1) I don't believe that the authors make a compelling argument about how to sell the first vendors on the advantages of being a part of the virtual community. From my experience, vendors don't sign up for a new product or service because "that's where the market is going". They need to be convinced that there's an advantage for them to be first, and that reason was not adequately described in the book.
2) The book states the importance of member-generated content as a way to build up the community and keep traffic coming to the site. It was never clear to me from the book how to do this through a commercially sponsored newsgroup versus the already existing Usenet newsgroups today (which already have a pre-existing and active community). For instance, there are already many Usenet newsgroups related to Travel. Why should potential travelers use a commercially sponsored site instead of a Usenet group? Clearly there are sites that have been successful at creating their own newsgroup areas so I believe that there are justifiable reasons. I'm just not sure what those reasons are and the book didn't explain them.
Overall, an interesting book and well worth your time.
In the Preface, Hagel and Armstrong acknowledge three inevitable limitations in writing Net.Gain: "The first arises from the profound uncertainties associated with evolving electronic networks and the myriad business models emerging in the primordial brew known as cycberspace....Second, the need to be concise has led us to make some generalizations about the likely evolution of virtual communities and the key principles for success....Third, we do not expect virtual communities to be the only 'form of life' on public networks. Indeed, many other commercial and non-commercial formats (including dictionaries, market spaces, 'web'zines,' corporate sites and game areas) will thrive on these networks as well." Working within these limitations, Hagel and Armstrong succeed admirably when describing the power and potential of the virtual community concept. Also, when explaining (a) how to target the kind of community to start-up; (b) the principles of a successful entry strategy, emphasizing the need to generate, engage, and lock in traffic over time; (c) characteristics of community organizations; and (d) criteria by which to select the right technology. Then in Part Three, Hagel and Armstrong shift their attention to explaining the fundamental ways in which the emergence and spread of virtual communities will alter traditional business.
My strong recommendation is that this book be read first, then Net Worth. My further recommendation is that both books be used to formulate the agenda for a workshop or what is generally referred to as an "executive retreat" (preferably for two days and located offsite) with all participants required to read both books in advance. In their Epilogue, Hagel and Armstrong suggest that "the most radical potential impact of the virtual community may well be its impact on the way individuals manage their lives and companies manage themselves. Communities will serve to connect, much like the postage system and telephone before them. But they will go several steps further than the telephone or fax, as they help the individual to seek out and find. Souls in search of relationship, colleagues in search of teamwork,, customers in search of products, suppliers in search of markets: the virtual community might have a place for them after all." Those who share my high regard for Hagel's two books (co-authored with Armstrong and Singer, respectively) are urged to check out Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline as well as O'Dell and Grayson's If Only We Knew What We Know. Both can also help with the planning and implementing of the off-site workshop recommended earlier.