The Wall Street Journal published an article titled Creating a Successful Online Brand Community – The Fans Know Best. The authors list “four things companies can do to turn a tired and rigid brand community into a powerful market-research lab, early-warning system and customer-loyalty builder, all rolled into one”.
Lots of company-run communities are good at putting visitors in touch with a company representative, or at helping them find solutions to problems. But many of these sites don’t let visitors talk to each other. Where is the community in that? … Most fan-run communities, by contrast, encourage a variety of social interactions… <br/><br/>At Oraclecommunity.net, a site for people interested in Oracle Corp.’s database and software products, members share personal stories, pictures, videos and birthdays. They can create blogs on the site, form groups around themes and build networks of designated friends. Members can also schedule meetings and events both online and in person.
The article is a good read. By the way, make sure you join the 6,000+ OracleCommunity.net members, in case you have not done so already.