Conversation Agent - Valeria Maltoni - The Case for Customer Communities


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Hi, Valeria. This post got me thinking about professional and personal relationships in a new way. I've more to noodle about this, and I'll thank you for bringing this idea to the forefront.

Yes, I've been part of a community that might be interesting to share. At one former employer, we created an annual event that spanned 3-4 business days. The event had both social activities (dining, organized games, entertainment) and brain-feeding activities (speakers, product demo's, guest keynotes, etc.). It was a great opportunity for our clients to network, discuss common issues, and get to know their project managers on a personal level. Our client extranet also supported cross-client sourcing and messaging, and I found that clients frequently asked their peers about problem-solving.

A couple of tactics. To your point, I believe a more comprehensive review and plan could be even more effective and help drive a cultural shift.

Excellent post. Recently, there have been a number of discussions around Dunbar's Number and an idea has floated to the surface called Dunbar's Mass (a working name, I suppose).

Essentially the idea behind this is because of the efficiency of social networking and community tools, that our ability to influence and interface effectively beyond our strong ties, that the glass ceiling of 150 connections might not apply as Dunbar had in mind...Instead, (and maybe) an individual might have a variety of places that do not independently violate Dunbar's principal. Most people spend their time shuttling back and forth between community hubs and various nodes (places of strong and weak ties that align with their areas of interest and/or needs), having a NUMBER of defined places to interact allows for a broader, more organized and richer personal experience rather might otherwise be possible. The way it was described in a recent conversation I had was like living in one small town where you lived and worked but having friends and relatives in other small towns you also visited and were comfortable in. Each was independent but still part of your personal (larger social network structure). Whether this is right or wrong is still debatable but an interesting concept to try and prove out.

@Rob - thank you for giving us a definition. Growing up with group work and collaboration among people, sometimes I forget that tools want definitions. I agree with you on the difference between social network and community. There is a purpose to community in wanting to build something together.

@Stuart - I tend to agree more with Rebecca's extension to your comment. There are instances where a community is best seeded from the ground up, so to speak. While you read control over growing something, I read care to curate and help develop something. Hey, I built a community with a subset of the social network of Fast Company, from scratch. One could have argued that I should have sought to find like-minded individuals in existing professional associations I belonged to. They didn't meet the needs of the broader business community, so I endeavored to offer something different. We were fully engaged for almost nine years - that's a long time.

@Manila - I think I read about Communispace in Gorundswell. Thank you for adding to the conversation.

@Rebecca - interesting take on why. I had a slightly different philosophy for thinking developing a community is also good. See above in response to Stuart.

@Frank - excellent addition to the discussion. Every year, for four years in a row, I met the leaders of the military academies at the Wharton Leadership Forum and indeed, they have utilized Dunbar's number well.

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