I just finished rereading this important deck by Rachel Happe of The Community Roundtable, originally posted in 2011 and am reminded how much every single concept in the deck is as true today as it was then.
Frankly, I am disappointed that, with so much quality information out there, people are still making major mistakes and setting unrealistic expectations of what an online Community will do for them and their organizations. There are hundreds of examples of people doing it right and when you look at Rachel’s well presented points, you may wonder, why are people still flailing, and failing?
Community is a group of people with unique shared values, behaviors and artifacts
My experience is in talking to people interesting in adding a Community, they fail to understand how to optimize for shared values and behaviors, in fact many times, they think that the Community is all about pushing content and getting people to talk, rather than helping them discover, uncover and celebrate the unique shared values and the diversity of behaviors and experiences that make up the collection of people involved. Whether it is 50 or 50,000 – considering these basic fundamentals gets lost.
Things that define Community: a common interest or context, a sense of shared purpose or fate and common set of needs.
I would argue that in the beginning of an online community design, these concepts are discussed, yet soon fall to the wayside as the tactical deployment, design and launch of the community takes center stage. When a community is floundering, I look to see if the common interest or context is still clear, is it clear to new members, how is the sense of shared purpose communicated and is it still relevant six months or a year later – and has it been reviewed, probably not.
The solution is simple. Look at the slides from The Community Roundtable, see how easy it seems to do it right – yet, why are so many communities having an identity crisis when, at one point, they actually discussed these critical design decisions, yet somehow have failed to realize any benefit from those decisions.
You may not think about community all the time like we do, however, when you do, please make sure you consider that there really are only a few secrets to building a vibrant community according to The Community Roundtable, then ask yourself are you doing all of them to the best of your ability?
- Observe Your Audience
- Keep a Regular Schedule
- Be Welcoming
- Provide a Guide
- Be Valuable
- Be a Connector
- Bring Catnip
- Have Rules
- Lead from the Back
- Encourage Your Cheeseheads
- Ride The Waves
- Don’t Ignore
- Be Multi-model
- Protect the Fish
I could easily write a paragraph about each of the above. Look at the slides and see the images she chose to illustrate each concept and use your imagination. How do you relate to each concept? Could you be doing better? If you don’t have a community now, how would you address each of these ideas in your own organization. Even if you think you are doing a great job now, review the slides to see if you could be doing even better.
The Community Roundtable is an amazing resource for those of us who provide platforms and for those that take care of the thousands of people that populate them. We thank them for their generosity in publishing these materials, then frequently reminding us that something published two years ago is relevant, timely and a perfect thing to share with our readers. Thank you.