Digg.com models where people submit news, community curates ( votes) the best news which is showcased on the homepage.
Ideation communities are a people centric way of carrying the brand message. It is an open platform for people to talk about brand or related businesses. But unlike typical communities or social networks the focus is more on content consumption, curation ( rate/vote/ comment) and creation rather than connecting consumers or building relationships among them.
It will be interesting to see how many popular brands have used such ideation communities:
Starbucks: My Starbucks idea is one of the most popular ideation communities. The agenda is simple. The community members submit ideas on what they would want from Starbucks and others vote and comment upon the ideas they like. By the end of the day, Starbucks has the most popular, democratically decided ideas for its brands. How this benefits Starbucks is that this community automatically positions Starbucks as a brand that is all ears to its costumers which is great for any services company. Secondly it has a platform where people repeatedly come to submit ideas, comment and have conversations, that is better than any marketing campaign. Thirdly through this platform the company knows who are its biggest fans and evangelists and it knows whom to go to for positive advocacy.
Starbucks has put in a lot of effort to showcase how it is taking care of the ideas, which in fact has been the core to the success of this community. My Starbucks idea has a 'Ideas in action' blog where they talk about the ideas that have been brought into action. They also have a leader board to recognize its most active members.
Dell: Surely Dell learnt it the hard way, but then Dell Ideastorm is some of the benchmark examples of brands using social media. Like my Starbucks Idea, Dell Ideastorm is also about the ideas for Dell services and products. The good thing is Dell has sustained this community and nurtured it with time by adding small timely campaigns to it. Presently I see them running 'Storm Sessions'.Many companies like Best Buy and Hindustan Times have tried to model their social business strategies along the same lines.
Dell has also used such Ideation platform to run periodic social media contest campaigns to promote and generate buzz on some issues. Dell Go Green and Dell Social Innovation are example of such periodic Social Media campaigns. ( As a disclaimer, I work for the firm that planned Dell Go Green )
Intuit: Intuit, the financial & accounting software company is an interesting example where an ideation community was developed to woo not end consumers but small businesses. The Intuit small business community is an ideation platform for businesses to share stories of success and business ideas and case studies to the community.How Intuit is doing it differently is that this community also showcases the full Intuit shop, intuit products, services and solutions etc. Also there are periodic campaigns and contests like 'Business Grant Contests'. This also helps the company position itself as a supporter to small businesses in helping them grow and bring ideas into action. Some other B2B ideation communities/ contests have been built by Intel, Nokia, Tata NEN etc
Idea Cellular: In India, the telecom company Idea has and ideation platform which is although not a community ( that is it does not have profile or relationships) but it is a good beginning. What is interesting about this platform is that it is engaging customers around the ideas for brining change in India, which in itself is a good social object ( a lifestyle/ passion/ cause which is the core theme around which a community talks) for any community. A similar campaign was run by change.org around asking the US citizens to submit the ideas for change in America.
Conclusion: Ideation communities are a good way to make your business social. You can use them to get customer ideas for your brand, thoughts around a cause or a passion core to your brand, generate buzz through user generated ideation contests, crowd source around important objectives etc. Surely, you would need to incentivize the social behavior among consumers which mainly depends on what core theme you ask this community to ideate upon, how engaging the community is, inbuilt rewards and reputation systems etc.