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Seriously? Rich, I like a lot what what you write but sometimes you really do sound like a marketing guru. This post is teetering on the edge of pure mindless wiffle and probably sounded cleverer in your head than on the Internet where others can see it.

Really disappointed.

Richard Millington

Hi Ed,

What part of the post do you disagree with?

At the moment there is a lot of literature on community symbol systems which isn't being enacted within the online community context. Some go as far to say that communities are based around shared symbol systems than shared interests.

Take a community. Mumsnet is usually my favourite example, you will see the same symbols (language, references to popular figures, issues and ideas) appearing frequently in posts to reinforce the sense of community that people feel.

The symbols enhance a sense of community amongst members leading to higher repeat visits, greater likelihood of referrals etc...

If you disagree with that, then by all means let me know why with a defensible viewpoint. But I really can't defend myself against the accusation of 'mindless wiffle' :-)


Hi Rich,

Even now you're not actually giving any examples. Put something forward as an example eg this post on mumsnet is a great example. Because atm you're simply saying 'community members use symbols (which can be anything). At the moment what you're saying is without any substantive meaning.

Richard Millington

I don't use direct examples for the majority of my posts. Often because of time limits, other times deliberately because people focus on aspects specific to the example rather than the point trying to be conveyed.

Why is this mindless wiffle as opposed to the rest of the posts?


I'm an aspiring community manager and would like to throw in my 2p.

I feel that there is a bit of a tendancy by those established in social media and the so called "gurus" (no offence, Ed) to demand things like specific examples and case studies, and like Rich has explained these take a while to produce and then just tend to be latched on with the majority of gurus missing the wood for the trees.

I find that a broader view, like Rich's, is much more accessible for people who wish to learn about communities - the message here, Ed, is that each community has its own symbols! You need to establish what these are yourself, and you can't expect a one-size-fits all approach to be suitable, otherwise there won't be anything special about your community.

Cheers Rich, personally I say that we need more people taking your approach to education about communities.

Jim Lestrange

Symbols? Are we talking about things like the bat symbol or giant "must have" RSS symbols like blogs used to have in 2005?

No, I know that's not what you mean so I shall take it upon myself to translate the mindless wiffle into something meaningful.

In an online community people will have shared interests that may or may not be entirely relevant to the focus of your community. Pick up on that, join in and facilitate conversations around those shared interests. Obvious, right?


This does beg the question, if your "symbols" aren't relevant to your community at all?

I guess it doesn't matter. People are engaging and this is good, right?

Right. If your community is Mumsnet or something equally wide ranging and short of business objectives. If your community is a purpose built branded community and nobody wants to talk about things you've built the community for you may want to shift your focus or simply shut up shop.

If you have a community for car mechanics and you're a car parts distributor, there's very little point in your community if people are going there to talk about what was on TV last night... Unless it was Top Gear. If it was America's Got Talent, you've got a problem.

So, in the case of a branded community, you very often need to create those "symbols" around your KPIs and reach out to the right people; people that will talk about the stuff your stakeholders want to see people talking about. If that's not working, you've probably not done your research properly as there may not be a need for your community at all.

So, if we're talking "symbols" here, you need to identify those symbols before you even begin to build your community. You need to test those symbols in your seeding phase and go about your business when you go live.

So after all that... Symbols? Seriously? Where does symbolism come into this?

It's all about themes, memes and custard creams.

Peace. Out.


This ia a great post. Richards always comes out with great content. I have sat down and given symbols are bigh think today. Becauae although I know what you mean I have used them extremely sparingly up to now on my community. I have thought about the sysmbols that are relevant to my community and ranked them in importance to it's purpose.

Thanks Richards. This has got to be one of the best informational sites I have found on the net ever!!!!!


Don't know why I keep writing Richards?!?!?!?

Sorry and Thanks again

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