Companies don’t realize that starting a community is a commitment. You can’t get people to move in and hand over their time and attention and then just one day decide to close.
Mattel is shutting down its American Girl Club and our daughter is rightfully upset. She joined the community and made friends there and now Mattel is pulling up and leaving town. Because of the anonymity features of the community, this means that thousands of friendships are suddenly cut off; they communicate only through the club.
It's an interesting comment on our times. Marriages and contracts are made to be broken, but one dare not scuttle an online community.
A Jarvis commenter throws his support behind Mattel:
Perhaps third grade is a good time for a girl to start learning that there are friends, and there is business. Mattel is a business, and makes business decisions. It’s not nice, but it is reality. Networks of friends… will someone find the business model to make that good business? Mattel pulled the plug. It’s not a bad idea to know what the motivations are for our associations…networts, and friendships. It’s a lesson worth learning or beginning to learn anyway in third grade.
When PR people tell their clients they "need to understand how to communicate and connect in a new environment in which you have little or no control," it's not just an airy concept. Once you've ceded control to your consumers, you can't just decide one day to — poof — take it back, without suffering damage to your reputation.