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This week’s AMA is with Bill and he has done incredible work. Put your seatbelt on and let’s go. 🚀🚀🚀
*drum roll* *🥁 🥁 🥁 Introducing…
Bill Johnston is the Chief Community Officer at Structure3C where he help companies like Intuit, Salesforce, IBM, Autodesk and many more, realize tremendous value through virtual communities & networks.
The caveat to this answer (and anything else I say here) is that absent a specific context/application, my response risks being too general. So with the caveat of “It depends, but…”
The first step before thinking about hosting any community is deciding on a primary purpose or intention - why are you trying to attract and build this community? For whom? How does your purpose or intention align with your potential members? And most importantly: how, specifically, are you going to help members make progress towards their purpose and related goals over time?
When I say “attraction, rather than promotion” - it really comes down to have an articulated purpose, or intention, that attracts people to the community, vs needing an elaborate or heavy-handed recruitment strategy. Attraction doesn’t mean leaning back and waiting for people to show up. It means to get your purpose out into the world through your presence, content, and invitation in various forms.
Find the 5-10 people most passionate about your purpose. Do they already have a home? How can yours be better? Find out. Internalize. Evolve. Have your core find 5-10 more. Talk about what you are doing, shine a bright light on it. If it resonates, it will attract the right people who are motivated by the purpose of the community and are willing to take action.
If you want to see an example of this playing out in real-time, check out the community springing up around Roam Research (think Evernote + knowledge graph) and the #roamcult.
The relationship between community building and design are very related, AND I think this relationship is often misunderstood. Design is a creative, iterative, and inclusive process amongst community stakeholders to achieve a particular set of outcomes. Design isn’t just developing a slick community interface or set of graphical elements, and it also isn’t a perpetual process that just produces piles of stick notes with no community-facing activities. It’s a mindset and orientation around continuous investigation, understanding, and refinement.
In the early stages of community development, the design process looks more like research and definition - understanding your potential communities’ needs, goals, and motivating purpose (their “why”), as well as understanding the same set of criteria about yourself in the role of host. This process should include representation from all community stakeholders.
I’ve written a lot about this, and more recently, shared our planning templates for community design. You can find those here (just request access).
One of my favourite books about design that no one has ever heard about is The Universal Traveler by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall
I’ve mentioned Roam a few too many times (that’s the one I’m obsessed with right now), so I’ll go with Peloton. This community literally changed my life and is also the exception to a general rule that it is impossible to build a community on Facebook (which I still don’t recommend). I think Peloton is successful because:
The community at large is impressive and multichannel. Lot’s happens on Facebook, which can be a narcissistic dumpster fire in the main Peloton group, but Peloton has been great about supporting grassroots groups springing up around location, special interest (breast cancer, diabetes), and instructors. The community transcends both the in-product experience and Facebook and manifests out in the world with local meetups (including riding actual bikes), and high fives when someone is rocking a Peloton shirt. I get high fives when I’m out running in my Century shirt (humblebrag), which you earn after completing 100 rides.
There are so many… we are in a golden age of community leadership :) If I had to pick one, I’d have to say my friend Venessa Paech. She hosts the SWARM conference in Australia, founded the Australia Community Managers Association, is pursuing a doctorate in the role of AI (and related tech) in communities, and has a wide range of professional community leadership experience. She sets the bar for me as a brilliant, kind, and joyful practitioner. But, again, there are so many bright lights right now that I feel conflicted just mentioning one person!
Before even thinking about the community, learn as much about the organization and individual stakeholders as you possibly can. The community’s role (ideally) will be to support both the individual and the collective in making progress towards their purpose and goals.
Learn as much about facilitation and conflict resolution as you possibly can.
Don’t limit your thinking by accepting best practices or advice from community platform vendors or experts at face value. In many ways, we are just getting started developing our global digital community and there is so much more to learn and more work to do.
We have added new jobs and books on Uncommunity this week.
Go to Uncommunity.club to find out all the other great resources we have added this week.
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