This is the first in a three-part series of articles on the subject of online communities. I would like to thank Christina Stallings, Greg Ruby, Kiki L’Italien, Liz King, Eric Lukazewski, Kristi Sanders, Cameron Toth and Jeff Hurt for taking time to share their thoughts regarding this topic.
What does it really mean to be part of an online community? With the increased presence and influence of social technology in the world folks are connected with other like-minded people in more ways than ever. Online communities are growing momentum, as this type of networking breaks down traditional geographic barriers.
As the dynamic of communicating within a community via a computer keyboard is significantly different than a face2face experience, and relatively new, the rules of engagement are still evolving. Back in October I published a blog post on the EventCamp website about Community values. Recently there has been lots of discussion amongst my online colleagues around this subject.
I’ve been wondering about the makeup and evolution of online communities. What makes a community great? What should be the baseline expectations of members? Should community leaders be held to a higher standard? If so, what is it? How do Communities Grow?
In the interest of obtaining a variety of opinions I invited eight fellow colleagues connected to the #eventprofs Twitter community to weigh in with their thoughts and perceptions.
What Makes an Online Community Rock?
Christina Stallings — Support, friendship and professional growth. As a young professional hungry to learn, #eventprofs has provided me (free) access to experts and and constant educational opportunities. It has also been a terrific resource to inspire creativity and courage to think outside the box.
Kiki L’Italien — A community allows people who care about the same causes, the same industries, to come together and move those causes or industries forward by combining brain power, passion, and resources.
Liz King — Good communities are made of members that realize that relationships are the key to any kind of success. They are built on the foundation of relationships and are supporting of everyone in the group. Each member of the group is committed to the success of the others and self-promotion is not considered acceptable. These true communities are full of resource sharing, support, and a freedom to ask questions and show weakness.
Greg Ruby — A community is made great by it members having an open and frank dialogue concerning issues and discussion. Folks should feel free to speak their minds without fear or reprisal. I’ve always enjoyed #eventprofs because of the willingness to share ideas and knowledge in an open environment.
Eric Lukazewski — Diversity & Equality. From the experienced veteran to the college grad, there are insights provided on numerous levels, each as essential as the next one. Allowing each of these members to have this voice is what allows them to each feel integral.
Kristi Sanders — A truly great community offers exceptional resources and opportunities for its members as well as a sense of inclusion, so that every individual feels as if they have a voice and chance to make a difference.
Cameron Toth — A community is great when it is supportive, encouraging and passionate about excellence. Community is great when there are broad missions that allow many people to use a variety of talents. Trust is key to making an incredibly strong community.
Jeff Hurt — First, I suggest that there are different types of communities. Communities of practice, communities of like-minds (likes based on nation, race, religion, class, etc), communities of opportunity (LinkedIn, Plaxo, Ning), and passion-centric communities to name just a few. What makes a community great?- diversity of thought and opinion. Ultimately, the people make the community great.
Trusting Relationships and Equality Are Key!
In reviewing these terrific thoughts and opinions it seems that some common themes have emerged.
- A thriving community embraces a spirit of encouraging diverse thoughts and opinions regarding topics that are of mutual interest.
- The success of a community depends on its people. Trusting relationships are at its core, and every individual member has an equal voice and feels a sense of inclusion.
Through collaboration, in a safe environment, deep learning can and does occur. The community, in harnessing the collective brain power, experience and intelligence of it’s members, becomes a force to drive growth, change and excellence to the industry/concern it represents.
Question: As you think about community how would you answer the question of what makes it rock? Do you agree or disagree with the thoughts expressed here, and why? We look forward to your thoughts!