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For centuries, companies of all shapes and sizes have put a lot of time, energy, and money into building communities through their offline stores and with the introduction of the World Wide Web, businesses have also developed online communities across their websites, blogs, and social networks.

However, when building a community, businesses often over-look one key factor and that is, once a community is built, it is them who now run your company. To some people this may sound a bit absurd or even debatable, but there is logic behind this statement.

Every business looks to their customers, clients, and/or users for purchases, website traffic, and/or usage of their online site. Companies also seek feedback, recommendations, and word-of-mouth marketing from their community. Literally, every decision a President or CEO of a company makes and every move a business performs revolves entirely around what the community gives or provides. Hence, without them, all businesses would cease to exist. Therefore, it is the company’s community who actually runs the business.

If a company fails to accept or decides to disregard this vital information than they are in the process of making one of the biggest and most detrimental mistakes any company could make. Never underestimate the power communities have in making or breaking your company, case in point, Digg.com.

In the online world recently, there has been a lot of talk about the website Digg.com. For those who are unaware of the profound impact Digg’s community had on trying to save the site from its current state, here is a brief summary of its history.

The social news website, Digg.com launched in 2004 by Kevin Rose and three other collaborators. The sites original function allowed users to submit online stories which were voted up or down, called “digging” or “burying”, by other members of the site. Power users, which were the popular kids amongst the community that submitted well-liked content, was what kept the community strong and gave value to the site. The ability to become a Digg Power User gave people something to strive for and those who were already a Power User, something to retain.

In August 2010, Digg v4 (version 4) rolled out to the public, which was strongly protested by Digg’s community. This version stripped people of their Power User status, which made all users (including the Power Users) equal to one another no matter how long you had been using the site. It also introduced news and publisher streams, as well as, tweaked the layout and some features of the site.

Prior to the rolling out of Digg v4, its community made those working at Digg well aware of not wanting the revision of the site to occur and it was one of the main discussions or “hot topics” on various social networks leading up to the change. Articles upon articles were written about how Digg’s community was revolting against the transition to Digg v4. Unfortunately, Digg refused to listen to its community and after a long downhill spiral of the site, outgoing CEO, Matt Williams, recently sold Digg, which was once worth millions of dollars for $500,000 to Betaworks.

Yesterday, Betaworks rolled out the new Digg or Digg v1, which is completely different from what the site once was, even though it is still called Digg.com and the “digging” feature is still intact, all else has changed. Once again, Digg’s community made it very clear of how unhappy they were with the transformation and turned to various social networks and wrote articles to express their disappointment, as they did when its previous owners rolled out Digg v4. Although it has only been one day since the new version launched, many community members have already stated that it is the end of Digg, which is a site they once loved. It seems as though, ironically, Digg has buried itself.

There is a very powerful message from Diggs slow demise in which all businesses can learn from and goes back to the statement said earlier in this post – “… when building a community, businesses often over-look one key factor and that is, once a community is built, it is them who now run your company.” This is a message no business can afford to forget.

On a side note: Kevin Rose, founder of Digg went to the Reddit community (which is the site where a lot of members from the Digg community went after the launch of Digg v4) and encouraged them to ask him questions. This all took place after the launch of the new version of Digg.

Listen to how Kevin Rose responds to the question, “Digg, biggest regret?” and how community played a role in his answer.

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One comment on “We Can All Learn From Digg: Who Really Runs A Company? Its Community

  1. Pep

    Digg was best when it served its registered users and helped them find stories they wanted to read based on their activity. The new Digg is a jarring and alienating fiasco. Login now requires a Facebook account, and content itself is being shaped by the staff under the technobabble they call the ‘subjective’ engine, turning the site into yet another MSM news aggregator. I believe there are plenty of those out there already.

    The other flaw of digg was the hierarchical “democratization” of content which favored those with the means or profit motive to game the system to their advantage. Many of the so called power users were in effect a cabal promoting each other’s content across a small array of sites, several of whom used sock puppet accounts to boost traffic. This again was a detraction from serving the end users with news that reflected their interests because so much of the content was spammed, orchestrated to push down other content and channel eyes towards those select few sites.

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