How to Build Community


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Recently, I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about communities and their application in business. This goes back to Robin Wight’s talk at the Autumn 2010 Likeminds event entitled: The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Social.

And, more recently, my friend, Matthew Needham, across at The Big Red Tomato Company posted: Are You Building a Tribe or a Community?, a guest post from Yolanda at RedHotMomentum.

Both of these, amongst others, got me to thinking about how and why we might want to build communities in business?

Starting with the why, there’s a lot of talk about how building a community is a great way to help:

  • Build connections with customers
  • Better understand customers needs
  • Encourage self service and community based customer service
  • Build loyalty
  • etc

Penguin Books through their Penguin Readers’ Group initiative, Giffgaff, the SIM only mobile phone network run by it’s members, and some of the gaming franchises seem to be doing well. But, there doesn’t seem to be a huge number of examples of businesses doing it well.

Why is that?

One of the main reasons, I believe, is that many businesses, if they decide that building a community fits with their business strategy, are doing it wrong.

You can’t just build a community. A community has to evolve and start from something that makes sense to its members. That’s where most businesses fail as they start from what makes sense to themselves not their customers.

Here’s a suggested set of steps to help you get your community started. Personally, I think the first one is the most over-looked part of the process, but if you get it right then much of the rest will follow.

  1. Create a social object or objective
    • History and experience has shown us that communities don’t just spring up out of nothing. They come about because of a social object (book, game, football team etc) or a social objective (cause, save/earn money, feel included, kudos etc).
  2. Stimulate/allow conversation and activity about and around this social object or objective
    • It’s the social object(vie) that creates the conversation, that creates the relationships, that creates the glue that creates the community. These conversations can take place online or offline, with or without your business.
  3. Community develops
    • Here is where the community develops and may, over time, need managing and/or leading to allow it to develop further.
  4. Community evolution
    • The social object or objective has to develop along with the conversation and the needs of the community in order for the community to become sustainable and survive. If the context changes then the community may die or evolve.

What do you think?

Thanks to niallkennedy for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.



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