The Messy Baggage Behind Complex Social Groups

July 12, 2015Comments Off on The Messy Baggage Behind Complex Social Groups

Everyone brings a lot of baggage into every social setting.

That baggage includes good and bad relationships, established habits, existing belief systems, values, culture, hopes, fears, and ambitions.

Before you can build any social group, you have to do two things. First you need to build a relationship with members (individual outreach) to understand their baggage. The more they disclose with you, the more they trust you. Believe me, you’ll need to reciprocate your own fears and share your own baggage.

Second you need to get a group of them in a room together to agree on the baggage. If, at the very least, the audience can agree on the baggage you can agree on what a process would look like to tackle the baggage.

This takes a lot of bravery (which is why you’re paid to be there).  You have to suggest people highlight which relationships are dysfunctional, who they like/dislike (and understanding why) what their ambitious are, what the established ways of doing things are etc…

There are two other great benefits of this process. The first is you gain the trust of your audience. The more time you’re willing to spend trying to understand the baggage people bring into the room (and why they bring it into the room) the more credible you become as a founder of a social group.

The second benefit is you find some ideas just won’t succeed. The community manager might not be held in high enough esteem to bring the group together. They might be associated with the wrong faction within the company. Some people might see the group as a threat or a disruption to their work. This community might be just the latest in the long-line of frustrating initiatives put forward by management.

Any of the above can kill the idea and put you out of work. All of which you can tackle if you’re aware of them.

Too often we launch the community and work backwards to unpick the baggage preventing participation. Far better to begin with the baggage and work forwards.

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