Here are three things I like to look at when building community. Other people may have more or different ideas when it comes to building community.
Initiative – As a community builder, you have to take initiative. Yes, some communities build themselves, but that’s not always the case. You need to take steps and put in the effort. Don’t go into something if you aren’t willing to put in the time and effort. Like tending a garden, sometimes it takes nurturing and watering. You have to prune and even clean up weeds every now and then. You need to know what to say yes and when to say no more.
Purpose or Cause – A community needs to come together around a certain purpose or cause. It could be an interest in a brand or company, a not-for-profit or general awareness, as well as many other topics. This is the foundation of the community. With a defined purpose, the community has something to talk about, relate to, and care about. If things get off topic, you need to help get things back on track. I’m not saying it’s completely out there to go off topic at times. Talking about current events or something else may help a stagnant community get motivated again, but don’t forget what the community is about.
True Community – I believe that in building community, you should have something along the lines of what I call “true community.” That means the community is actually engaging and helping each other without the assistance of the community creator or community manager. If someone has a question, others are happy to jump in and answer, or even defend on the cause or brand’s behalf; they should become self-sustaining in a way. If the community manager steps away for a short-while, hopefully the community will be fine on it’s own. In that time away, it’s the perfect opportunity to listen and observe.
Community building does take a lot of patience, effort, and dedication. It can also be very rewarding. On the other hand, you need to have a thick skin and know not take things personally. Empathy is one of your strongest suits; remember to play it well.