I spoke with a co-worker yesterday whose goal at work is to create new community here at AOL. We had a great conversation about the whole process and we came to a couple of great conclusions.
– Having lots of social technology on your site does not make it have a community.
Placing buttons that float and social engineering software does not create a community. Yes, it may bring referrals but is that a community?
– Most organizations treat community as an afterthought.
Historically, communities online have been ignored by business people. Starting with message boards on to chat rooms and through the social network phenomenon, C-level management has made community an afterthought. Very rarely has time, resources and investment been directed towards community progress.
– The content creators for your site need to take a stance and have personality.
Starting conversations about content written specifically to be impartial is hard. Having an opinion or at least infusing the authors personality into your pieces helps with building community. If a community member reads an authors posts regularly, that reader should “know” the author over time.
– Authors are usually bad at engaging with community.
Strangely enough, writer write and critics, critique and the two shall not meet. Having content creators be the primary source of community engagement and moderation simply does not work. The dynamics of creating content and then leading the conversation on the created content don’t jive. I liken it to cooking a meal and then judging the merits of that meal, objectively. A cook simply can’t critique their own meal.
– Creating community is hard work.
There is no magic, there is no secret and there is no secret formula. You need good content, a good product and people who are willing to talk about things. Creating a strong and dynamic community takes nuanced, a heavy hand and unwavering consistency. From dealing with message trolls, to spam and back around to community revolts a community managers job is hard and thankless. When there aren’t comments we’re asked to manufacture them and when there are too many we’re asked to stop them. The community manager is the front lines of the Internet.
What are your thoughts? Do you have anything at all you want to add? I’d love to hear it.