Mindjet’s Jascha Kaykas-Wolf brought the IKEA Hackers website to my attention earlier today. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a showcase of IKEA products that have been modified or repurposed in ways that IKEA never intended.
I don’t know that IKEA supports or condones the site, but it should. Hack and mod communities are huge engagement drivers and help build awareness, loyalty and community.
I’m not a big IKEA fan, I don’t like the layout of the stores, I feel like a trapped rat. However, after browsing through some of the mods and hacks, I want to go back to the store this weekend and walk through the maze with an eye toward using the furniture and accessories in unintended ways.
More companies should encourage and support mod communities.
A few years ago I worked with a company that wanted to encourage more self-support and sharing of ideas about new ways to use their product, but their partners and sales channel were afraid of the support issues and problems this would cause. Despite partner worries, the company decided to go ahead and provide a platform designed to foster peer-2-peer community, yet distance their official involvement in it. We developed the site for them and seeded it with a minimal amount of content and some super-users. Then with minimal guidance, we let it evolve.
The site quickly grew and in the first year had more traffic than the official company website. Not only did the community grow, but the influence of the community and its level of advocacy grew significantly which helped drive huge gains in market share. One unexpected outcome was a huge drop in the support calls. On investigation we found that power-users were providing peer support on the site. In addition, many of the companies support experts were using the community to mine for troubleshooting tips and help find answers to problems that came through the official channels, cutting call time significantly.
Yes, there are warranty and other legal reasons you have to consider. But why fight your best customers? Instead find a way to give them a voice and support them.