A number of recent examples, including the mass migration of community members from UrbanBaby.com to YouBeMom.com, as reported in the latest issue of Wired Magazine, make you wonder why some communities have strong built-in switching costs while others seem to have none.
I believe that the answer is in having communities that are tied to a transactional infrastructure. As I described in an earlier post, there are 4 forces of increasing returns in communities – members, content, member profiles and transactions. If your communities are purely member and content-driven, without a solid transactional component – like buying, or getting help – then it is much easier for members to pick up their profile and go hang out somewhere else. It is only if the transactions that I need to do become easier and more effective because of my interactions with the community – i.e., buying a book, renting a movie, getting recommendations for photographic equipment purchases – that I will have a hard time to pick up my stuff and go somewhere else.
If that is the case, then you wonder why so many communities are not directly integrated with the transactional infrastructure of the company that is hosting it. If I am a frequent buyer with a company that is now hosting a community – they should enable my buying experience to become better because of that community.
It also makes you wonder how magazines and newspapers, who typically have content-based communities, can increase their community switching costs. Maybe they could affiliate with their advertisers’ transactional infrastructure instead of selling banner ads which annoy all the members anyway.