The Community Imperative
It's an amazing feeling to see the people you've connected building relationships, helping each other, and doing meaningful things.
It has real benefits too. People in a community are happier, healthier, wealthier. They trust each other. They work better together. They stay longer (both customers/employees). Their interest in the topic increases, they get greater pleasure from enjoying the interest with others.
It's easy to look at the world and see people more fragmented than ever. It's easy to see people pulled apart by technology, increasingly distrusting of one another, and ever greater disconnection. This mindset, if true however, isn't helpful.
You have a passion right? You have an interest? You have places you like to go, things you like to do, people you like spending time with. Other people probably have that interest too. Create a place for it. If it's work-related, use LinkedIn groups. If it's personal, use Facebook. If it's neither, use a mailing list/group…or possibly Ning. Invite others you know to join. Just talk about it.
This is such a tiny investment and generates such terrific benefits. Your first attempt might not succeed, nor the second, but one of them will. And when it does, you can enjoy that incredible feeling (and the advantages) of having connected a great group of people.
I think (or hope) that deep down this is why we do this. We love the feeling that comes from connecting people. We like seeing the relationships we've facilitated blossom. We like seeing people collaborating together, meeting each other, and helping each other. We like to see the people in the community enjoying themselves.
You don't have to build an online community. In fact, we should drop the term online entirely. But nearly all of us should attempt to build a community. You can use tactics that have worked for generations or those you see on community blogs.
We need a community building imperative to spread across the web (and the world) like wildfire. It's one of the few ways to tackle the decline in traditional communities and the problems this has caused. Starting a community for a topic you're passionate about does make you happier, it also leads to benefits you might not have considered (job opportunities, financial opportunities, making change in the world). Better still, it helps everyone in the community.
For many of us, this is our biggest opportunity to change the world – even in just a tiny way. I've been asked in meeting where people struggle to understand what I and other community professionals do. They think of it as some tiny, niche, strand of marketing. That's a shame.
We do really important, life-changing, work. Even the most minutia elements like removing bad posts, prodding people for the 5th time to participate, helps build these amazing communities. We should embrace all of it.
This is our mission, is it yours?