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The news here for most people is probably that the Museum of Modern Art has launched a free iPhone app, giving users access to it’s huge collection of modern and contemporary art and a slew of other tools. After all, that’s the headline of the organization’s press release and it is big news, especially considering all that it allows users to do. Smart.

But what I find awesome about it is how it encourages user-generated content, and then turns around and rewards the user for their efforts with something tangible, useful and that they will probably find quite intriguing.  Here is the excerpt from the release that I found most exciting:

As a useful companion for visits to the Museum, the MoMA App offers users a chance to snap photos inside the Museum and send them as postcards

I think that’s pretty neat. I do wonder though if there were any internal discussions about that feature potentially stealing revenue from the gift shop where I’m sure they actually *sell* postcards. But it’s good to see that it didn’t hinder this cool feature if it did surface as an issue. We are all using our mobile devices as content generating machines. It’s good to see someone leverage that in a way that’s helpful.

Good job Museum of Modern Art.

Here’s the complete release:

MoMA Launches Free iPhone App on App Store

Access The Museum’s Renowned Collection, Exhibitions, Events, and More Through iPhone and iPod touch

NEW YORK, Aug. 12 /PRNewswire/ — The Museum of Modern Art today announces that the MoMA App is now available on the App Store. The new application for the iPhone and iPod touch provides users with instant access to 32,000 works of art in the Museum’s vast collection of modern and contemporary art; a dictionary of art terms and a database of artist bios; calendar information for exhibitions, film screenings, and events; and a variety of audio tours, including special tours for children, teens, and the visually impaired. As a useful companion for visits to the Museum, the MoMA App offers users a chance to snap photos inside the Museum and send them as postcards, and allows visitors to select tracks from their own music libraries to listen to while touring the Museum. The application’s highly engaging visual interface was designed in-house, and when used with the new iPhone 4G and its high resolution and retina display, artworks can be viewed in the highest possible quality. The MoMA App is available as a free download from the App Store, and follows the spring 2010 release of the Museum’s first e-book app Vincent van Gogh: The Starry Night.

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The tide is turning.

People are finally realizing that the online communities they’ve left abandoned could probably use some attention. I don’t know if this is due to frustrations with Facebook or mounting concerns over the fact that they’ve put all of their eggs in someone else’s basket and not enough in their own.

It seems logical to try to build your community on existing platforms, especially when you constantly hear about their size and the same old case studies about the success of company A or company B and how you too could be capitalizing on all of these millions of people waiting to interact with your brand.

The reason I say the tide is turning is that I’ve been tapped quite a bit recently to help with engagement tactics and to provide successful methods for attracting new members for several online communities belonging to large organizations. I couldn’t be happier about this renewed interest. I think it’s important and smart.

I don’t believe that any one community can change peoples habits but I believe strongly in the power of niche communities that provide people with something they don’t get elsewhere. There are still many opportunities to hone in on a niche, provide amazing value and watch your community grow as a result. It just takes commitment.

If you have an online community gathering dust, it’s time to give it another look and consider breathing new life into it. It could be a long road depending on how long it’s been sitting there unattended but the payoff could be great.

I am happy to help people figure out how to do this, look at their communities up close and make recommendations on how they should proceed, because I truly believe in the power of online communities that are managed and maintained.

I hope this trend continues. Yes, there are infinite choices online and yours is one out of hundreds of thousands but it deserves a chance to succeed and thrive, and it’s time you give it just that.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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