Over twenty years ago I read of the power of virtual communities in Net Gain, Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities by John Hagel and Arthur Armstrong (now executive director of Debevoise &Plimpton).
I read Net Gain then while creating Prairielaw.com, a virtual law community of lawyers and lay people alike, later sold to LexisNexis. I am reading Net Gain again as LexBlog’s worldwide legal blogging network begins to pick up steam.
This legal blogging network is every bit a virtual community of:
- Blogging legal professionals
- Those supporting these legal bloggers – LexBlog and its partners
- Those whom benefit from the legal information and commentary of legal bloggers, including legal professionals, consumers of legal services empowered by legal blogs to select a lawyer in a more informed fashion, and other publishers who receive blog commentary by syndication.
No question there is a business model in organizing a legal blogging community, so long as the focus remains on helping the members – the bloggers and the beneficiaries of legal blogs.
From Hagel and Armstrong:
Virtual communities will increasingly be organized as commercial enterprises, with the objective with the objective of earning an attractive financial return by providing members with valuable resources and environments through which to enhance their own power. It is porecisely the profit incentive that will shape the evolution of virtual communities as vehicles to augment the power of their members. Members will value this power and richly reward the community organizers that deliver it to them most effectively, and abandon those which compromise on this value proposition. It is in giving a net gain in value to their members that community organizers will realize a substantial net gain of their own.
As a virtual community organizer, LexBlog must focus on two business imperatives to deliver this value proposition, per Hagel and Armstrong. Aggregating members and aggregating resources relevant to members.
I’d add a third imperative, aggregating the publishing of legal bloggers.
Resources relevant to members include, and could include:
- Profiles of bloggers, blogs, and organizations whose members blog
- Curated news and commentary from legal blogs delivered in relevant methods
- Cost effective professional blog publishing platforms (presently being used by 18,000 legal professionals, worldwide)
- Education on effective blogging and publishing, including the personal use of social media for engagement and syndication
- Syndication partners whether they be legal organizations (law firms, law schools , bar associations etc), publishers or legal research companies.
Virtual communities have unquestionably shown their value to organizers and members over the last twenty years. Social networks are everywhere. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit and more.
The business model of some of these community organizers being to market the demographics of users while other organizers charge for service offerings. But in all cases of a successful virtual community, a net gain for members and organizers.
Stay tuned as to how LexBlog will deliver a net gain to all in this virtual legal blogging community – with the focus throughout being value to members.