Communities – Part 2 (Communities in the Online Space pt. 2)

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.

Best,
Social Steve

PS Thanks to so many for their input – way too many to mention.

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5 Comments

Filed under brand communication, community, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Communities – Part 2 (Communities in the Online Space pt. 2)

  1. Thanks Steve – more great ideas to chew over. First thoughts when reading – I like the idea of tribes being “not safe” in Seth Godin’s post this week (http://bit.ly/aE6BPV). Communities can be made up of combative and collaborating tribes – and the spark of originality is the glue that will keep them contributing.

    This brave approach prevents communities from ossifying – and for brands it can be a very scary process. But it’s one that is worth taking the chance with. Do you agree?

    Keep the ideas coming! Thanks Tim.

    • Hey Tim,

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

      I did read Seth’s piece before. (Love just about everything he touches.) I think Seth is correct if your objective to you look to create a movement (as he mentioned) – play on the edges. But brands don’t necessarily look for “movements” and look for “crowd sourcing”. Thus, you want to find the biggest mass for your target market. (Must be targeted and not just go for a mass!) Then, brands should have a strategy and execution to standout in the target segment. I think there is a way to standout in the mass (Facebook and others) by being targeted to gain attention and attraction, build affinity, and then invite those that you establish relationship to be part of your audience in your community. One must be patient and develop a relationship before trying to move the individuals of the crowd to their community.

      Best,
      Social Steve

  2. Thanks Steve – that’s definitely right… I was thinking more about creating communities. I still wonder about the notion of community online and the different rule sets there; my experience of games communities was very useful but maybe not the best example of cordial discussions!

    Engaging in an established community is, you’re right, a patient game. When we have a client who wants to build relationships online, we often have to rein back the marketing impulses and make sure they internalise the ‘Listen, Learn, Engage, Give and Share’ roadmap. We’re often talking about months of patient work here.

    Cheers, Tim

    • Tim,

      Absolutely right !!! The “Listening” component is SO important and often left out. I promote the LCR Mentality (Listen-Conversations-Relationships) as described in an article “Simplifying Social Media” at http://bit.ly/efa3X which is likely similar to your “Learn, Engage, Give and Share” roadmap.

      Thanks and best,
      Steve

      • Def! And if a client was fresh to this community, for example, we’d all but forbid them to dive in with an opinion (I did… sorry!) but to read, read, read and not to worry about missing opportunities. First stop after that would be an intro sent to the facilitator/moderator with a couple of questions; then a first response or comment based on the answers to those questions. That means it’s relevant and focused by the community first. And we also try to teach clients that you only get out what you put in.

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