Fire the Gardener! Why Nurturing Your Online Community is Critical to Greener Relationships
Let me guess – you launched a private community and it was a dismal failure. Or you’re too stubborn to admit that it’s dying a slow death. Here is what happened – you hired me to build you a beautiful garden. I come back in 3 months and everything is dead. I tell you to fire the gardener and you ask – what gardener! So in 3 months you haven’t watered, fertilized, pruned, or otherwise taken care of the garden and you were magically expecting a beautiful basket of fruits and vegetables? That’s exactly what happens with many private communities. Regardless of the provider – not really but I’ll get to that in a minute – it’s NOT just about a cool tool…. I am often asked about the ongoing care and feeding of an online community and I have found that making the analogy to tending a garden resonates with everyone. We all have had the experience of trying to grow a tomato or keep a house plant alive. It’s not easy. There are tricks, there are a ton of tips, but until you have actually done it successfully, it can be really frustrating. Plant it and it will grow, is similar to build it and they will come. Neither are true. Right? You have to do more than just build it or plant it. You have to nurture, cajole, seduce and dedicate precious time to assuring success. That tomato doesn’t grow itself, it needs help. Your community will not grow itself either. If you have hired us to design an amazing garden for your new home. We will meet to talk about your objectives, you want to have a garden that reminds you of that Japanese garden in Golden Gate Park. We will talk about how you will gauge success of the garden, how will it look in 3, 5 and 10 years from now and we will talk about the value a well designed garden will give you; peace, serenity and a quiet place to relax. Once we are agreed on the ‘what’ and the ‘so what’ we will look at the ‘now what’. This means we test the soil, look at the light, see about irrigation and set about drawing something so that you can pre-visualize the garden. Sounds great, right? We then set about digging and amending the soil, selecting the plants and arranging them just perfectly, knowing that over time, they will grow and fill out the space and create a stunning environment for you. Now, imagine that it’s six months later and you have invited us to your home for a garden party. As we arrive and walk up to your home, I notice that the garden we so carefully designed and built has weeds, dead plants, wild plants that grew from errant seeds and generally looks poor. I am shocked. When you greet me and welcome me into your home I ask, “What the heck happened to your garden? I would fire your gardener immediately!” Then you reply, “Gardener? You never said I needed a gardener. We try to get out there every week or so, but have been really busy.” Uh-oh. What we have is a failure to communicate. Sound familiar? Did you ever plant something, then forget to water it, never fertilized it, never pulled out any weeds, never pruned it. How’d that work out for you? Maybe you are the 20% that understand what it takes to garden and have a green thumb. You understand that there are a lot of small things you do, on a regular basis, that assure success and give you fantastic results. Community management is exactly the same thing. Once built, populated and fertilized (with great people and content), you need to think about tending, pruning, weeding, swapping out plants that don’t survive in the environment and watering on a regular basis. Do you do this everyday? No, of course not. You do this on a schedule so that a small amount of work over a long period of time results in an engaged, vibrant and productive collaborative environment. The fruit? Great relationships that are able to grow in an environment that was clearly designed to produce optimum results. We suggest that everyone in the Community has some gardening responsibilities. Yes, there’s a Community Manager or Community Gardener, who will be a hundred times more successful when everyone in the community pitches in and helps where they can. Have you considered finding the green thumbs in your audience? If you’d like to talk about your new garden, I mean Community, give us a shout. Click the Contact Us link on this page and we will see if you like Japanese Tea Gardens or English Formal with Hedges.