Earlier this morning, our cat cornered a mouse beneath a shelf of movies, caught it, and brought it – hanging from its mouth – to my wife and me. I grabbed a dustpan, got the cat to drop the mouse, and tried to smash the mouse. I missed. The mouse ran, and the cat caught the mouse in its mouth again. We repeated this series two more times before the mouse escaped beneath the TV stand.
Background: The cat successfully caught and killed a mouse early Friday morning. (This is the first year we’ve had any mice issues… cat only has back claws.) So my wife had me get mouse traps the next day – to set out this weekend to catch any other mice who come inside the house. We have a couple traps – but none set out when this morning’s events happen.
So I make a quick decision. We put the cat in room upstairs with the litter box and food, and my wife and I set the mousetraps downstairs. We run out to shovel snow and run a few errands. We return home. No mouse caught, and the cat seems pretty content in the comfy chair in the upstairs room.
How Lego Caught the Cluetrain (links to a video presentation that covers the same topic as his essay) by Jake McKee tells the story of how the Lego Company entered the world of social networking as part of its communication outreach. Lego had been aware of AFOLs (adult fan of Legos) but only marketed to children. The company slowly began to embrace AFOLs who had built websites, message boards, forums, e-mail groups, photo sites, and virtual stores to buy and sell pieces. Lego joined the conversation on the existing websites and developed new programs that made it easier for AFOLs to create their own designs and purchase the needed blocks to build those creations.
One paragraph in particular stood out. It highlights something that Jake says Lego did not do – something Lego did well.
“The mistake many companies make when they first engage a community is to rush in and try to replace unofficial efforts with official efforts. Even if such a move is well intentioned, it’s as if the company is saying, ‘Your efforts are sub par. Let us professionals step in and show you how it’s done.’ Not a very good way to start off the relationship.”
Lego included and built off the work that the fan community had already established. Lego joined the community. Its customers welcomed it, and they didn’t try to replace the work that was already done. The lesson is important for any company that connects with customers online – whether through a simple website or on a series of online communities. Don’t work to create an “official” and “artificial” community; go to where the customers are. You can add a legitimate voice to the conversation, but don’t hijack what’s already been built. Look for ways to complement what your customers, users, and constituents are doing.
Sometimes you can’t build a better network, and you waste resources and annoy everyone involved. That’s what my cat taught me about mousetraps today.
Thanks for picture: Picture is Creative Commons licensed from Joming Lau through Flickr.