Gartner: Online user communities calling all the shots

Online user groups have seized power from vendors and are increasingly calling all the shots.

In recent years the online user community has rapidly gained power representing a turbulent arena for vendors, according to Gartner research director Steve Prentice.

He warned vendors they need to rethink how they exploit users for marketing purposes.

"These communities provide a strange and implicit trust between anonymous users," Prentice added.

While vendors can use these communities as a support center, Prentice warned they risk savage retaliation and bad publicity if marketing is surreptitiously introduced.

"These communities are very strange entities as users will go out of their way to help someone they have never seen before and this advice is trusted without question - and in most cases, rightly so," Prentice said, adding that users aim to present accurate information in order to build online reputations.