I had a situation this week that brought up an interesting question. What do you do if you’ve built a great brand, a social community, and this very community begins to tarnish your brand? This question is very pertinent, especially when everyone who is anyone is making or joining social communities by the hundreds (social community proliferation is whole different topic for another posting…) and I’m getting invitations to a new social community what seems like every day.
Craig Newmark (…of Craigslist), has basically built an empire that people have been trying to duplicate for years. I myself have used Craigslist on more occasions than I can even count: roommates, buying a dresser, selling a camera, finding random jobs, even hiring for positions. And yes, there’s also the perusal of Best Of Craigslist posting and Missed Connections, which are too addicting for their own good.
For a long time, Craigslist was reliable, the people cooperative and the transactions smooth. But my past few years of Craigslist usages has witnessed a rise in negative experiences, resulting in the lose of a good deal of confidence in the network. It’s just not reliable any more. I’ve had people say they’re going to buy things and never show up, I’ve not been paid, I’ve had a roommate bail one week before move-in date (which was really fun), and yes, I’ve been scammed. Most recently, I had someone buy a full cabinet set from me, even signing an electronic contract of sorts, and call three days before they were supposed to pick it up (four days before my new cabinets were to be delivered), to say that “circumstances had changed and they couldn’t take them.” So I was stuck with a set of cabinets, no place to put them, and little to do. Isn’t there someone I can call about this?
But what can I say about Craigslist? Is it their fault? Or is the users fault? Is it ANYONE’S fault? Things have clearly gotten unwieldy. There aren’t any checks and balances. But should there be? It’s a Buyer-Beware network, we all know that. And it would be unrealistic of me to think that Craig should sit in front of his computer and double check each posting for legitimacy.
So I guess we just move on. We find our next Craigslist. It seems somehow unfair to Craig that his idea, his empire, falls because of the very people he brought in. But perhaps it offers a Lessons Learned for future Xlists, whatever lesson that may be.
At the very least, it points to potential (very potential) problems that can happen to anyone in this space. What to do when your masses are bringing you down and tarnishing your brand, not through slander, but just through misuse or abuse. Perhaps the industry as a whole will slowly develop management standards. People developing social network know (or SHOULD know) what they’re getting into. It’s the same deal: make sure you figure out how to keep your community coming back.
This again begs the question of whose responsibility it is to “deal” with it. I’m inclined to say things like this will remain in the hands of the community (and shouldn’t they though? Isn’t that the point?) and when that community starts to deteriorate, they’ll leave or they’ll change it, somehow (they always figure it out, right?).
I can’t and don’t expect Craigslist to do anything about this situation. Frankly, I’m not motivated to change it. I’ll likely give it a few more shot, and then move on if there’s a sour taste. Sorry Craig, I don’t blame you…..