Think about the situations where you've felt a connection with a group of strangers.
I bet it was in a situation when the group either: had a common goal, faced a common threat/problem/enemy, were isolated from other people by a clear barrier, had a shared history or been through an experience together.
These are external forces that brings groups together. The greater the intensity of any of these elements, the stronger the group feeling. It excludes people, but that's what breeds a stronger group identity.
A group of people trapped in an elevator form a close bond quite quickly. They share all of the above factors. In fact, with the right tweaking of external forces, you can form a strong community from almost any group of people
Too often, we look at internal elements over external. We spend too long getting individuals to like each other when we should be shaping environments in which members are most likely to get along.
This means looking at each of these and figuring how to strengthen it:
- Common goals. Common goals (whether long-term or short-term) unite members to contribute towards it. You can establish short and long-term goals for the community. You can ask members about their biggest challenges in the sector and proactively work to resolve it together. You can identify the skills members have and how they can put those skills to use to the benefit of all.
- Common threat. Common threats, problems and enemies help forge groups together. You get to highlight what the threats to your member's way of life are (way of life used to mean how things are now). You can highlight methods for members to collaborate to remove these threats.
- Isolation from others. Isolation from others focuses the attention upon each other. This is the sum of the other elements and the barrier below. The greater the separation, or clearer the delineation, from the mainstream, the stronger the community. How do you ensure your platform, from the moment people join it, is clearly isolated from the mainstream?
- Barriers to entry. Barriers to entry are important. The boundary are the skills, experiences, attributes, knowledge, or resources people have gained to be accepted as a member of the group. Higher boundaries leads to less members, but stronger communities. Some controversial boundary maintenance can be a good thing.
All of these are forces you have a great deal of control over. All of these are worth your time to shape and influence. You need to decide to have less members, but a stronger sense of community.
You can choose, today, to intensify each of these forces. If you get this right, many of your other problems will go away.
You can now buy my first book, Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities from the links below: