Communities in the year 2030 | Uncommunity #5

Hey you,

We are back with another AMA newsletter with phenomenal community builders - they share thoughts and wisdom, followed up by our surprise giveaway and updates from us to you on all things Community. ❤️

*drum roll* *🥁 🥁 🥁

Introducing… Venessa Paech is an internationally regarded online community expert and educator. Her former roles include Head of Community at Lonely Planet and Head of Content and Community at REA Group. Venessa is Director of Australian Community Managers (ACM), the national center for online community management training and resources, which she co-founded in 2010.

The year is 2030. What has changed in communities?

My answer to this depends on my frame of mind, lol!

I hope the social media era is behind us. As an experiment built on the backs of early online communities, it has failed most of us.

I’d like to see vast networks of interconnected, smaller communities spanning online and offline. Community as the dominant internal operating model for businesses and organisations, who now have fully remote and hybrid teams. Extractive businesses as outliers viewed with disdain.

The influence of Silicon Valley replaced by more diverse centres of innovation from around the world - and the ‘tech bro’ phenomenon a thing of the past.

Communities are understood as far more useful than just marketing and sales tools, and organisations are testing wildly different use cases and applications.

Community will continue to be professionalised and mature into a coveted discipline with a range of specialties. In Australia, we now have two post-graduate university intensives in online community management and through ACM we’re working to grow this professionalisation even further. I firmly believe community is a central literacy and skill-set of the 21st century.

How do you define Better Communities? What has changed?

The word Community has been co-opted by social media platforms like Facebook, and by many businesses trying to convince people they’re customer-centric and a force for good. But too often the ‘community’ is yet another extractive business model where people’s time, attention, labor or resources are exploited for the benefit of an elite few.

Better Communities is a project recently launched by a number of community leaders, including myself, to educate and incentivise the building of true online communities that unlock shared value, sustainable growth and deep resilience. It’s about moving beyond the shallow transactions and attention gaming of social media to a more holistic approach to community as a way of creating and working around purpose.

It’s also about responsibility. Governance - creating safe and healthy spaces - is often an afterthought for some community owners. Better Communities take accountability for social design from the start, and ensure they build equitably and inclusively, with no tolerance for harm and abuse.

Growth hacking is a great way to build communities. Agree or disagree. Why?

Disagree. Growth hacking can be an effective way to build the user base for a product, especially in its early days. But it’s a poor way to build community. You can’t hack relationships. It’s deceptive, coercive and it doesn’t last long. Not to mention, community doesn’t scale - social science proves it. The bigger you get, the more you move away from the  benefits of community, and need to split into smaller communities to retain that value.

If you’re genuinely interested in community as a strategic asset or operational model for your organisation, you need to put in the work - there’s no shortcuts.

The good news is, it’s a much more profitable long game!

One community you admire and why?

Locally, I’d say the Woolworths bunch community is fantastic.

A nationally iconic brand chose to build a private online community outside social media and the team have done such a good job they have a waiting list of thousands. A food lovers community that also conducts market research, they’ve thoughtfully integrated its value and offering into the wider brand ecosystem, and it’s a hugely defensible strategic asset. They’ve taken the time, put in the work and it’s an absolute winner for both participants and the company.

I must also shout out the excellent online communities in Australia supporting mental health - including Beyond Blue, SANE, and ReachOut. They’re among our best online communities, period, and our annual ACM research shows that Australia leads the charge in creating online community models for mental health and therapeutic needs.

One community professional who you admire and why we should follow?

You’d be hard-pressed to beat Carrie Melissa Jones. She’s had a wealth of experience, and her new book, Building Brand Communities, is the community guide I always wanted to write!

I have enormous respect for her ethos and community building philosophy. She does a fantastic job of distilling the best lessons from our community building past and mapping a pathway to a more inclusive future.

My top tip - make sure you follow a diverse group of community professionals outside Silicon Valley and your own location and subject matter expertise. Otherwise, you’re missing perspective and potential.

What’s the best article on communities you’ve read this year. Or ever?

There is strong writing in the community space coming from voices including Priya Parker, Carrie Melissa Jones, Charles Vogl, Jono Bacon, and Rachel Happe, among many others. But I keep coming back to the iconic essay written by John Coate, the first online community manager, back in the early 1990s, about the craft of online community management - Cyberspace and the Art of Innkeeping.

Though the technologies have evolved, the core of the practice is strikingly similar, and John encapsulates it beautifully. Most great writing on community is an extension of the ideas and concepts he explores. If you’re a community manager, it’s essential reading:

Follow Venessa on Twitter, check her blog for more wisdom.

Reminder: We’re running a giveaway.

CMX Summit 2020 is less than a week away and they have put together an action-packed agenda! If you are in the business of building communities then you shouldn’t miss this one. And we are giving away all-access passes (worth $99) to two lucky people, all you have to do is retweet, tag your friend or like the below tweet.


What’s cooking?

  • The Social Architecture of Impactful Communities by Nick Dewilde is for those who seek to build iconic communities. Read the full piece here. It covers:
  • Why member quality is more important than growth
  • Rewarding members with status
  • What a flywheel for a thriving community looks like.
  • Moderation is the HOT topic and this episode on Masters of Community is phenomenal. Anika Gupta the author of, “How to handle Crowd” speaks to David Spinks. Go listen to it here.
  • Build Personal Moats - A personal moat is a set of unique and accumulating competitive advantages in the context of your career. Like company moats, your personal moat should be a competitive advantage specific to you that's not only durable, but compounds over time. Check out the full article by Erik Torenberg here. This should be something that’s:
  • Hard to learn and hard to do (but perhaps easier for you)
  • Impossible without rare and/or valuable skills
  • Unique to your own talents & interests
  • Legible, in the sense that your expertise should be easy to describe, easy to share, and makes people want to do both for you
  • Hold on there friends. Our time has come. :)

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