Instead of sharing my social media experiences with you, I’ve done something I have been preaching on this blog … listened. Based on my last post about communities, many of you have shared your thoughts with me. I have gotten some great comments and I have consolidated some of the best to share with you here.
So onward … let’s talk a little more about communities. What makes a great community? Common interests, common courtesy, and uncommon generosity in sharing advice and insights. Great communities help individuals succeed and persist. The best communities facilitate connections between the digital and real world environment and scenarios.
I think the most important ingredient is participation from the community originator and/or moderator. A community gets drawn together by an active leader that cares about the participants and is active in the discussions. A good moderator stimulates the community by teeing up open discussions. Other communities where this does not happen are clearly less lively and thus participants really do not feel akin to the environment. Strong communities often have participants that encourage one another and ask meaningful questions that prompt others to share their thoughts.
Communities get broad exposure via other social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, flickr, etc. as well as gaining coverage and attention in other communities that address similar interests.
Unfortunately, some people and brands expect the community to build themselves. But in the end, a community must provide some type of value or tangible reward to continue to attract new users. Once you have “attracted” potential community members, you must continue to deliver valuable information in order for them to build affinity for the community. Once they have affinity, you can make users regular participants and truly part of the community audience. Ultimately, social media communities’ power lies in its ability to let users be advocates of a cause, product or brand. (see A-Path)
Communities are something we join when the “fit” looks right and we find others that either identify with us or engage in healthy constructive debates. Some communities are more open and inviting than others, and some are more open to inclusion of differing opinions.
Ah, but then we get to community bullying. Yes, some find communities and social media channels as a secure protective shield to abuse others of opposing view. Quite frankly, I see this as cowardly as some see the absence of direct eye contact a ticket to verbal bombing. Much the way email sparked many comments from people who would not say something to someone’s face, social media outlets and communities provide a safe harbor for over opinionated, but weak individuals. I fully support diverse views and constructive debates, but some communities have become fertile ground for attacks. I have witnessed many intelligent people being scared off by this behavior.
At the same time some choose to avoid talking with one and other, for fear of disagreement. This is quite unfortunate as well. One question I received was, “How do we encourage debate, inspire dialogue, and support healthy disagreement in the pursuit of mutual enlightenment – without unwittingly creating confusion and offense? If we don’t welcome different thinkers into our forums, and invite their perspectives, how are we to grow – intellectually, socially, etc?” And the answer here goes back to the starting point of this discussion. That is a strong moderator will encourage conversation, debate, agreement and disagreement. All in a civil, thought-provoking environment.
Got a good an example of where you see this happening? Please share it.
PS Thanks to so many for their input – way too many to mention.