According to Merriam-Webster online, the word community dates back to the 14th century. Community – “a unified body of individuals …the people with common interests living in a particular area … an interacting population of various kinds of individuals … in a common location … a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society … a group linked by a common policy.” 700 hundred years ago and still, how true.
Lately, I have been doing tons of thinking (and work) with regards to community. I have been on a quest to understand, join and partake in strong communities. I want to understand all the important attributes of a spirited community as a marketing professional leveraging the power of social media. This means that I am concentrating on the virtual community so the definition above rings true minus references to location (sometimes).
Last week I tweeted what appeared to me to be a rhetorical question: can there be a community without conversation? Surprisingly, I did not get even one antagonist that wanted to offer a yes. But given the reality of little (if any) physical connection, a virtual community demands more conversations – 2 way dialogue. A community without conversation is “just one large never ending API feed.” (@RelativelyFX) It is not simply producing content – tweets, wall posts, blog articles, etc. You see, content is not king, but conversations around content is king. (@johnhutson – great line!)
And in the end, “The community decides when it’s a community… you don’t” as Mitch Joel put it.
So in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be exploring the makings of great communities (and likely be blogging on it). I’d really love to hear your input (and other readers will surely value it as well) … What do you think makes a great virtual community and what are some of the best examples you see? Please join the discussion!