You've heard a lot about how Web 2.0 puts the customer in charge. No more controlling the message. No more carefully crafting the information to suit the company and not the user. But how to get started?
I've been using Ning.com to create online communities for business clients and I think it is a great tool. My rule of thumb is to use a new technology when creating the structure and content don't overshadow the tactic itself. I think Ning makes that a reality. I'm sure there are other good online community tools out there as well.
The key to creating a successful online community is to determine what the goal will be. Personal social networks can unite around a common interest. Business networks need to offer users the chance to impact and change the product. If you aren't prepared to listen, don't ask. If you are, you can build a social network that is a powerful adjunct to your in-house development.