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While everyone is seemingly on Facebook and Twitter, don’t think for a second that there is no room for smaller niche communities that cater to specific areas of interest. New online communities are launching all the time and those that don’t subscribe to the “if you build it they will come” fallacy can be quite successful despite the dominance of the big two.

I learned of two new online communities just this week: MultiUnitLiving.com and TeamRunSmart.com. Both cater to a very distinct audience. MultiUnitLiving.com is a community for owner operators and property managers of multi-family housing. It allows them to connect with their peers and discuss industry issues.

TeamRunSmart.com is a new community created by Freightliner Trucks, aimed at educating professional drivers on how to improve their profitability. Features include educational articles, blogs, operational tips and insight from professional drivers and “coaches” on how to be more successful.  Freightliner’s director of product marketing, TJ Reed says the Team Run Smart community is the “definitive guide to help business-minded drivers succeed,”

I think online communities are a fine choice and sometimes the best solution. Facebook and Twitter can be everything to everyone. Sometimes you need a closed, owned environment that doesn’t change every week, requiring you to adapt.

When thinking of ways to motivate users for their participation in online communities, the first thing you think about are rewards. It just seems logical to give people something with the hopes of that reward becoming a key motivator for continued participation. The question becomes, what “kind” of rewards. Should they be virtual or physical rewards? Do we issues points, ratings, gift certificates?

I am not a big fan of rewards, at least not a steady stream of them. Because one you start, it’s hard to stop. But I do believe there may be times when they are valuable, because every community is different, and the right set of circumstances could require rewards. One caveat: Don’t make it the main reason for people to join, and definitely not a reason at all for keeping them there. You want genuine participation that is not based what you’re giving them for being there.

I’m saying all of this to share some news I came across today, about  YAWMA (a Facebook app)  launching a new community that allows users to earn cash rewards for engagement. Now THAT is the ultimate reward.  I’m not judging this strategy, just sharing.  So if you have a few minutes, read the press release for yourself….

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