The Importance of Community
Seth Godin, in his recent blog post, nicely put it, “The challenge is to look at the rituals and events in your organization and figure out how to amplify the real reason they exist even if it means abandoning some of the honoured tasks you've embraced. Going around in a circle saying everyone's name doesn't build a tribe. But neither does sitting through a boring powerpoint. Working side by side doing something that matters under adverse conditions… that's what we need.”
The message to marketers is clear: focus on community.
If your answers to the questions “who is it for?” and “what is it for” are vague, you are not doing your marketing work well. Your strategy should speak to people who share your values and your way of doing things. This is the only way to build a “tribe”: a group of people who have a shared sense of meaning and connection. If your brand can create that kind of meaning and connection, you will see your customers speak up on your behalf. And that, is the true revolution of 21st century marketing.
Inspire your community by increasing their confidence, helping them connect to others, and pushing them to challenge themselves. Here are a few guiding excerpts from the book Do Cool Sh*t that will help keep your Tribe growing and thriving:
Express happiness when you see your people.
Let everyone share stories and participate.
Forget the small talk.
Give credit as often as you can.
Instill confidence--it’s free.
Challenge your people to push themselves.
Below, are some additional important ideas on building community which I gathered from a book I recently read titled: “The Art of Community”.
How do we turn any community into a reliable support network and a valuable source of new ideas?
Why do any open source community members around the world get together? It comes down to one word: belonging. The interactions and this sense of belonging are generated from a unique kind of economy: a social economy. Belonging is the reward of a strong social economy.
Speed and success of a community is directly related to strategy, structure and planning. Organized communities always thrive because structure provides a sense of worth, conviction and oversight. The community leader’s role in building this strategy is in facilitating discussion and helping to bring conclusions from those discussions into a single strategic document. The main role is to gather feedback, opinions and ideas publicly and develop a strategy that meets as many needs and expectations in the community as possible. Here are a few things I’d start working on right away:
“Getting Started” To Do List
Identify how we can divide our community into teams. (users, developers, evangelists...)
Ensure that teams can communicate clearly and effectively. (forums, IIRC, email lists...)
Attract a diverse range of contributors to get involved and contribute to our goals.
Define the scope of each team and help team to understand scope.
Understand the extent and range of collaboration between the teams.
Encourage diversity and opportunity in the community.
Social media is a valuable tool, but it is only a tool. What is interesting, however, is how these tools shine a spotlight on the social values, needs and opportunities that are implicit within the community. A few things we may want to consider sharing on the community social media platforms may include: community news, progress updates, events, meetings, accomplishments, statements, etc.
Buzz is an important part of building community. Traditional marketing strategies may not work with many communities. Whereas marketing traditionally requires a budget, no budget is required here. Buzz in the world of community is subtler and more organic. For example, building buzz amongst a community does not need to be centralized. There can be a system put in place to encourage everyone in the community to learn the skills behind building buzz.
Contributors are at the forefront of what makes a great community. Not only are they on the front line, furthering your community in the direction of your goals, but they are also your reps and spokespeople. To encourage your community members to share their joy of being a part of your community, the key is that the communication focuses on the personal story. Stories are a fantastic form of viral marketing. Once these stories are crystallized, it’s important to get the word out: blogging, social media, word of mouth, interviews, conference presentations, meetings, etc. Building buzz and excitement in a way that is natural is an art.
As leaders, we are here to not only lead and inspire members, but also to learn to see the patterns in the chaos that is community. To really know we are achieving our goals, we need to be able to measure our community effectively.
When it comes to measurement, it’s not just about blindly sucking up information like a black hole. Instead, it’s about gathering meaningful measurements. The goal is to identify what we don’t know about our community and to use measurements as a means to understand those things better. By structuring our work effectively and executing it in a predictable manner, we can better communicate outward the success of that work and the value it brings. By tracking outcomes, we’re also better able to build a culture of delivery.
Managing and Tracking Work
Numbers don’t really give us the full picture. It’s less about identifying what numbers can represent our work best, but in how we bring value to the company and to the community. We need to identify where the company wishes to grow value so that we can see how we can apply our efforts to derive value in our work that also meet the wider company needs.
What do we need to manage? There are three broad areas: Projects (things that lead to specific outcomes), growth & decline (i.e. teams, process for contributing work, etc.) and general health (mechanics of how the community works, get a sense for the general health of the community, where are we seeing positive work, where are the issues that need to be addressed?). In summary, it’ll be very important to track and measure our work.
Community Lead Role
Ideally, the community manager is someone who has close ties to the technical leaders, but also a close connection with the marketing department to help them articulate and express your community story. To better understand the scope of the role, we need to first understand (a) what the scope of the community is and (b) what your expectations are for someone to work with that community to enable and extend it.