I’m not in your community

Here’s a stunning revelation that will come as a shock to some marketers, but especially to self-declared social media experts :

Just because I bought your product DOES NOT MEAN i’m part of your community.

*I* (Joe Consumer) get to decide if I’m part of you community. If you assume that our business transaction implicitly means I want to have more dealings with you – you may be in for a shock.

I can hear you now: “…. but Cluetrain says that markets are conversations!”. There’s a lot of truth to that, but here’s the tough part – the consumer decides when that conversation ends.

You may think otherwise, and as a “Social Media Expert” you’ve convinced your client that you can control this,  but it’s not up to you.

Any attempt on your part to continue after it’s over makes you look like the ex-boyfriend who can’t accept that it’s over. You keep pestering and phoning and hanging up and stuff. You know what that means? You’ve just obliterated your chance of having a quickie for old time’s sake somewhere down the road – you lose it all.

Why not just appreciate the transaction, and make sure that the exchange of goods/services speaks for you after the transaction ends. That could end up doing a lot more for you..

Photo credit: Separated From The Herd,  by barto.

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  1. C.C. Chapman says:

    AMEN Bob.

    While every brand in the world would love you to become a part of their community (IF they have one) when you buy a product it is not something that can be forced. You’ve got to want to be part of it which you laid out perfectly here.

    Someday agencies will figure this out. They are as much to blame here since they are convincing brands they can make magic happen and I have yet to see any real rabbits be pulled out of their hats.

  2. Jay says:

    Well said Bob! As much as social interaction with customers is terrific, lately there is a lot of co-opting of the idea of ‘community.’

    The truth is the majority of people who buy a product or service just want a good product or service, period. If some want to interact more with your store or consultancy or widget company, that’s great, but make sure it’s easy for them to opt out of that conversation.

  3. Eden Spodek says:

    Thanks for this breath of fresh air. I think we can take this point one step further and remind agencies and brands that online influencers don’t want to be forced to represent their communities either. Sure, they can make us aware of products and services they think may be of interest but they need to let people decide for themselves without pestering them.


  4. Keith Burtis says:

    I guess I am not sure what your definition of community is and what constitutes the nagging ex-boyfriend. Yes, it’s true that the consistent spam after a transaction is really annoying. I am with you there, but what constitutes community? Are we talking about nagging you to become part of a Facebook page or member on their site?

    I know that I love to flyfish and I tend to connect to companies and individuals that are in that business or that have the same passions. I guess I would consider myself part of that overall community even though I am not physically signed up to a flyfishing site or fanpage of any specific organization or company. I guess I subscribe to Chris Perillo’s definition that community comes from within you and not from a specific site. I am always willing to chat with others about flyfishing, but if they are a brand that is just shilling me with one way communications I just opt out!

    Great brain teaser Bob!

  5. Bob says:

    – we’re close on this one Keith, you’re deciding to join/participate in those communities-

    I’m not talking about facebook, or sites, or opting out of future emails or things like that, I’m looking at this at a higher level..

    To be assumed to have joined a community on the basis of a transaction is wrong.

    Participation in a community will trigger some actions, that’s how others know we’re part of it – but having bought a product/service by itself does not necessarily equal community participation, and I think a lot of people are forgetting this.

  6. Nico says:

    This reminds me of a session at Social Media Camp London titled something like “Being a social media corporate monkey”. He used this slide:


  7. Erin Bury says:

    Great post Bob – I think it’s a big assumption that if I buy/use your product I’m automatically loyal to you. I use a lot of services that I’m not loyal to, I just use them because I have to or they’re convenient (*cough Rogers cough*). There are very few brands I actually have relationships with – and they earn my loyalty through great customer service and innovation, not through my purchase.


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