Developing Community

John Hope-Johnstone

Bon jour, in past posts on this blog we have spoken about developing “community”  and its integral role for success of social media marketing.

 In marketing today we speak less about demographics and psychographics and more and more about “communities”. Communities have a common interest and that interest is usually coalesced through the action of “search’.

 ” A community is fundamentally an interdependent human system given form by the conversation it holds within itself.” (Peter Bloch).

In the past the term “community” has been relegated to forums and message boards. But with the rise of social media platforms such as facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Yelp and many many others the term community has become vague and loosely defined. These communities may exist only for a nana second

We have two choices with communities; to join an already established community (in the majority the is what we mostly do), or create a new community, either around a common interest or sharing of a particular bit of knowledge.

Today, we talk often about virtual communities and they exist dominantly for the sharing of knowledge. The Internet was formed for the sole purpose of the dissemination of knowledge and a majority of the communities of common interest are formed around a desire to discuss and disseminate certain knowledge. Fresh knowledge keeps the community growing and stable and so the community like a hungry beast must be kept fed with the fresh meat of knowledge.

Here are some of the types of communities people have enjoyed through these online connections. (Written by Sue Boetcher, Heather Duggan, Nancy White)

  • Socialize – meeting people, playing around, sharing jokes, stories and just taking interest in each other. Communities like this often focus around bulletin boards and chat rooms. An example of such a community is Electric Minds at http://www.electricminds.org
  • Work together (business) – Distributed work groups within companies and between companies use online community to build their team, keep in touch and even work on projects together. A very detailed description of how online work groups work can be found at http://www.awaken.com and http://www.bigbangworkshops.com .
  • Work together (community – geographic) – Freenets (see the Freenet Directory) have offered local communities ways to communicate and work together. Some have even combined this with ISP service. Community groups such as soccer teams, school groups and others have used online community to provide forums for information and discussion, helping bring groups together.
  • Work together (issues) – Virtual communities have been very important to people who share interests in issues and causes. Support groups for people dealing with certain diseases, causes such as politics or the environment, or people studying together, all can form a nucleus for an online community.
  • Have topical conversations – Online salons and discussion forums such as the Well (http://www.well.com), Salon’s TableTalk (as of mid 2001 a paid subscription model) (http://www.salon.com), Cafe Utne (http://www.utne.com) and others have formed communities of people who enjoy conversations about topics and shared interests. ForumOne noted in 1999 that the top ten topics for forums registered at their site are around the topics of (in order): relationships (16%), “mega sites (diverse topics, aggregations of smaller conferences – 11%), business and finance (8%), health (5%), hobbies (4%), religion (3%), music (3%), international (3%). It would be interesting to revisit those stats at the start of 2002.

I want to add one more type of community and that is a social media community. Writing this post gave me pause to think about the communities in which I am involved. I don’t belong to a forum (I have in the past), I don’t belong to bulletin boards but I am involved with social media and social networking platforms. Here are some social media that I believe still should hold the title of community:

  • Those who regularly follow my blog could be called a community (poor things)
  • The Linkedin groups that I belong to and whose brains I pick religiously are a community.
  • Although random, my facebook friends are a community.
  • Twitter #Corvallis is a free flowing community looking for knowledge about the town of Corvallis. It ebbs and flows but none the less it is a community.
  • I subscribe to various knowledge e-zines. I suppose all of my fellow subscribers are part of a community and we are asked to comment on the e-zine. It is a poor form of community but a community none the less. Then there are consumer

The key word for communities is a sense of “belonging” according to the author of the book The Art of Community by Jono Bacon. Part of that sense of belonging has to do with getting a tangible “reward” from the community. That reward can be entertainment, knowledge, friendship, support and even financial gain.

Communities are incredibly ethereal and tend to come and go at will. I believe that to try and overly structure them is a recipe for disaster, just let them be. Feed them and nourish them with knowledge but don’t try an control and over-structure them.

For the majority of us, we are going to find our community within the 800 pound guerillas of social media such as;  facebook and my space and linked in and Twitter. We tend to treat these communities rather casually when with a small amount of effort they can be powerful building tools for success.

There are two key elements about building your social media community that we often forget: 1) Build it with people who are key influencers in your world. 2) Be social: Introduce people, mentor people and help people get where they want to go. By doing this, you will build your own reputation and your community will prosper.

Well, this is a relatively short post as I am off to Rome. I will post again after I return. Thanks for reading and please add your comments.

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Comments

  1. Another good blog, John. Have fun in Rome, and when you get back, let’s meet for lunch somewhere between Corvallis and Portland; I’d love to have you as an online guest speaker in one of my classes.

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