Before you plan to start a community – think twice.

Funny. Or tragic? It happens all the time. Still. People is asking me to explain for them how to build a community.
Guess what? I use to answer like Mark Zuckerberg did when Rupert Murdoch asked: “How can we build such a great community like Facebook?” And Mark said: “You can’t.”

Ever since I’ve been inspired of Marks remarkable statements (and of course his work in particular). And in this case – he’s spot on. Of course you can’t.

Yesterday I got following mail from a friend – a smart guy that I do respect a lot:

“Hello!
Hope you’re doing well. I wonder if you can point me “right direction”.
I’m looking for a white paper, or person who can explain “how to think” of Facebook as a community. It’s simply about an idea involving XXX (which has a fairly significant facebook presence) and a twist on the community that I intend to try to YYY.
Any thoughts / ideas?”

I did answer:

“Hmm … sounds a bit vague to me. And I’m not sure what you mean, but I do believe that a “community” has nothing to do with the platform. A community is people who share a common cause. Who’s interested in or otherwise engaged in a common subject. Facebook is only a platform that might get communities to germinate and grow. Certainly a damn good platform. Try to catch and understand the engagement first.”

And after I’ve sent the reply, I was reminded of the blog post “Who owns community?” by Nick Tadd, that I read a year ago. I found it, and where he wrote among others things:

“You see, what I have learned from founding the Property Tribes forum, is that you cannot build a community.  Why?  Because it’s already there – you can’t build anything that was not yours in the first place. What you can do, however, is provide a platform and facilitate people using the site to have an enjoyable and rewarding experience. You can help them feel connected, you can help them feel valued, you can help them learn, you can help them feel that they “belong”, you can provide a space where they feel comfortable and among friends. Then let them run with it.  Let them make the community what they want it to be, not what you want it to be.”

He concludes his post with an conclusion:

“You cannot buy community and you cannot sell community.  If you are creating all the content yourself, and asking people to subscribe to that content, then that is a completely different business model and will not create community.  It’s also very hard work and time-consuming.”

And give us a few tips how to help people to organize themselves:

  1. Engage.
  2. Contribute.
  3. Pay attention.
  4. Let the community know they are valued.
  5. Connect people to each other.
  6. It’s about them, not you.
  7. Share.
  8. Don’t try and compete with your members.
  9. Be social.
  10. Be a friend.  Care.
  11. Don’t police or “moderate” the forum unless absolutely necessary.  The community will do that in their own way.
  12. Facilitate trust within the community.
  13. Understand that a community cannot be all things to all people.
  14. Celebrate the heroes in the community.
  15. Try and lead by example.
  16. Show respect.
  17. Believe in,  and encourage,  the wisdom of crowds.
  18. Enjoy it.
  19. Never stop trying to make it a better place for a community to organise itself – what ever your niche

So before you plan to start a community – think twice.

One Response

  1. Yikes, I will NEVER try to start a community Kristofer. David

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