Wetpaint unveils service to host online communities

Just Add Wetpaint is designed to create and run customized, brand-centric Web 2.0 communities

Wetpaint today rolled out a hosted service that can help companies use online social communities to foster support for corporate brands and products.

The service, dubbed Just Add Wetpaint, is designed to create and run customized, brand-centric Web 2.0 communities where users can converse about specific brands and products, said Kevin Flaherty, the company's co-founder and vice president of marketing. He noted that the company can create a community for a customer in less than two weeks.

Wetpaint runs more than 600,000 consumer-created communities for companies like CBS Broadcasting, ABC, Fox Entertainment Group, Discovery Communications' Discovery Channel, T-Mobile USA and Oracle, the company said.

T-Mobile, for example, users its Wetpaint community to provide a way for its customers to find out answers to common problems and to learn about features of its Sidekick mobile devices from other users, Flaherty noted. "They will often hear about problems on the wiki faster than they will in the call center," he noted.

In addition, companies can use the Wetpaint-run online forums to find out about new features or functions that users are anxious to have them add to products.

"Allowing consumers to connect with others around the brand they are very passionate about is what brands have always been try to do," according to Flaherty. "That is brand nirvana. Users have created some of the most amazing content you have ever seen around these products." He said the users come up with ideas that company personnel would never have imagined.

CBS turned to Wetpaint's service after discovering that viewers of several of its television shows had created wikis.

For example, a wiki developed by a group of viewers helped convince CBS to bring back the television show Jericho after the network initially had planned to cancel it, Flaherty said. With that, CBS realized there were multiple online communities being formed by groups of users interested in its shows, so it subsequently decided to build its own Wetpaint community, he added. "By using this new technology they were able to provides features and functionality that their community of users was already doing somewhere else," he said.

Flaherty noted that many large companies turn to software-as-a-service offerings because often they are not interested in internally building an architecture or the features needed to support such collaborative offerings, Flaherty noted.

The Just Add Wetpaint service provides customers with a social computing platform with wiki and discussion forum functionality, tagging, commenting, social profiles, private messaging, newsletters and the ability to insert widgets into images, videos and polls, the company said. The offering also provides custom development, content development and promotion services, it said.

The Just Add Wetpaint service is available now. Pricing depends on the degree of customization, but generally begins at US$10,000.

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