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Among Friends

How do you make customers comfortable enough to buy? Give 'em an online community.

This story appears in the April 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Birds do it, bees do it, you do it, and the next thing you know, you're at a diaper Web site, pleading for advice. Yes, you're in a virtual community, where the message board always has something new and customers instant message each other and have "conversations" about products or services. So how do you make your Web site the place to make friends? Ask Howard Rheingold, writer of the 1993 classic, The Virtual Community (MIT Press)-his business, Rheingold Associates, has created huge communities like the online Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Why should a company have a virtual community?

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