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Building Peer Groups Allows Members To Achieve Positive Distinctiveness

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

This is a term you’ve seen several times here.

Positive distinctiveness drives most of the participation we see in communities.

Some participate for fun, some to help, some to get help, a few for money, but the vast majority participate to achieve positive distinctiveness. This means they participate because they want to be seen as unique, in a good way, among those they consider their peers.

Take blogging for example. Some people blog for career advancement. Most people blog to be seen in a unique, positive, way among their peers. People share knowledge or help one another because they want to be seen as intelligent and/or caring.

Some people go as far as using a specific strategy to achieve positive distinctiveness among their peers. I recall one member who used dry sarcasm in every single post. That was his positive distinctiveness strategy.

Building a peer group

To have a community that drives this level of participation, you need to have members that really care what others in the community think of them. You need a group of people that know each other, feel the others are similar to them in a topic they care about, and an established social order among those people.

This means if you took a random 5 of the group aside and asked them who were the top people, you would find a broad agreement.

There are a few steps to building a peer group. The first is to interview members of the target audience. Ask a few specific questions.

1) Who are you? (or how would you describe yourself?) You’re not looking for their name. You’re looking for how they describe themselves. Do they begin talking about their job “I’m a historian“, a circumstance “I’m a 9/11 survivor”, “I’m a husband, father…”. The order of how a member describes themselves tells you a lot about that member.

2) Who do you feel are your peers? This is direct question. Sometimes you will get a specific list of people. Sometimes it will be more generic. This works if they already have a peer group you can bring into the community.

3) What do you have in common with your peers? The answer here is we’re all {x}. Pay close attention to that {x}. Again, this works if they already have a peer group.

4) Who you look up to? Who a member looks up to tells you plenty about who they feel are their peers.

Based upon this information, you can look for a cluster of people who are likely to feel others are their peers. This is more specific than using just demographics.

Once you have brought these people in to the community, you can begin the usual activities (initiating discussions, soliciting responses, facilitating events/activities, and creating content about the community).

Your content (who you choose to feature and how) will be key to developing a social order among members. Once a social order has been established, even in the most preliminary manner, members will begin engaging in strategies to increase their standing. These are positive distinctiveness strategies.

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