Do we need a healthy dose of realism in the community space?

I know the industry is growing and there’s a lot of hype but I think we need a healthy dose of realism in the community space.

As soon as you open community twitter you can see a dozen tweets about how community is everything. But it isn’t. Just like sales, marketing, or product aren’t everything.

I don’t think there’s a real path for us to establish the power of community if we don’t critique ourselves and the value of community.

It’s stuff like -
‘lukers are just silent learners’. Sure, some of them are. Most of them aren’t.
‘Community is at the core of every business’. It can be, but it clearly isn’t now.
‘It’s about connection and relationships’. Yeah, connecting is the reason why we love community but it doesn’t really pay the bills.

Can we sit down and decide what isn’t working in community and set a clear path to fix those issues?

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Yes!

Is that a metaphorical or actual sit down?

I’m down for whatever, and really like the idea of a Village Hackathon :slight_smile:

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I’m considering changing my Twitter header now, haha, jokes aside…

I do think there is so much work to do, especially after living through the pandemic and how the current practices are just not sustainable. Not really making those connections. People are burned out. Bored.

My fear, as someone who cares about building good communities is that we mess this up and people start thinking that community isn’t valuable.

I got the ball rolling in a rosie kinda way.

But yes, I’m down for a ‘sit down’ whatever format that may look like.

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I work with a lot of brands and some have community at the center and take it very seriously with multiple community managers, and others give us the email address of their “community person” and they are as surprised as us to find out they are now in charge.

I believe community is important, and I believe that a lot of other brands believe this too. I believe that there is a small nudge in a positive direction when it comes to taking community seriously.

The overly positive “community is going to save the world” people tend to be fronts for VCs who need everyone to believe that so they can sell them courses and products.

I would also say that it’s much easier to be confident about the power of community when you see the impact in smaller communities. It’s much easier to be disillusioned trying to balance community expectations and business expectations in a massive brand community with hundreds of posts and new members a day.

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Hey Kourosh, I both agree and disagree. The power of the community is very much related to who runs a community, what people are community members, how much buy-in you have from other teams, and what goals a community has.

It’s a good intention to set a clear path, but you can never set it just because people are different, and you can’t do everything for everyone.

However, you can still build some general rules such as “be kind to your community members” :sweat_smile:

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There’s a lot here that I agree with.

I’d suggest we need a healthy dose of nuance as well as realism.

Very little frustrates me (an 11+ yr community professional) more than Hallmark Movie tweets. They sound nice enough but if you think about them long enough, they make little sense. They make grand statements but don’t back them up with explanations. They have more in common with fortune cookies than professional experience.

So much in community building depends on context. The ideas may seem simple but the challenge comes in applying those ideas to our own situations.

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One of my current theories is that if we can help people become aware of certain things and practices, make them easily accessible, then it could help people make better decisions within community, and of course help us all understand the boundaries of it all.

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It helps to start with a definition of what community is (because it’s not something new). So a community is a group of people with a common interest. This is more powerful than a group of people who work together (as it can be only one), or your family and friends group (also, only one), because it’s plural. Here’s what I mean by that: people can be part of dozens of communities (not dozens of families, or dozens of jobs), as diverse as the products you subscribe to, clothes you buy, the food you eat, activities you enjoy, and so forth. This clearly opens up the space for new opportunities, for people (creators) and brands alike.

So what is really happening is not some fundamental change in how people interact, but more of an intentional focus on enabling many-to-many interactions in different environments. If the focus was mostly on home (social networks), and work (productivity apps), now the focus changes to “A third place” - which is communities, which is also barely explored. Let me give you an example: waitlists. Startups are actually collecting emails from their early adopters, and sitting on those emails for months, or years, before engaging with them. I call those on-hold communities. So instead of connecting everyone and engaging with that community to drive product feedback, they literarily sit on that data until those people move on and forget even subscribing to said waitlist. And that happens because the focus was one-to-many, and not many-to-many.

And there are similar examples all over the place. You just have to look for where group of people with similar interests congregate, and how you can unlock that group of people as to provide value to everyone involved. :slight_smile:

We’re early.

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I love the conversation this sparked. Thank you for sharing and for inviting some healthy perspectives and debates!

In case others are interested in some expansion on Kourosh’s thoughts above: We hosted a sit down safe space for discussions around these three themes (Lurkers as silent learners, Community is everything, and Relationships mattering most) in the Uncommon community, but in order to allow folks to dive deep into exploring these potentially challenging topics, we purposefully did not record it.

That being said, we also hosted a public conversation on Twitter Spaces with Kourosh as a primer for the smaller group discussions. You can listen to more of his thinking around these topics here on Twitter.

If you’d like to join the Uncommon community to stay apprised of upcoming events or job postings or community convos (in addition to the wonderful ones Rosie hosts here, all of the time), please do! We’d love to welcome you!

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People like to join a community if it helps them to move from A to B. They want to get somewhere (learn, grow, accomplish sth). If community is the best way to do so, they’ll like it. If not, why would they join in?

A community is not an end in itself. I think thats the point @Kourosh wanted to make. It’s not about community. It’s about value.

In some cases community might be the best tool. In other cases it’s not.

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I think part of the problem is the definition. What isn’t working “in community” feels vague to me. I’d step back and figure out what you think is broken and why you think it needs to be fixed.

I think that community is a powerful tool that can solve a lot of problems. In those where it works well, you generally see buy in from the top. When you don’t, that’s not the fault of the concept, per se. It’s more often about the organisation.

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Side thought: There’s a tendency to under-appreciate the value of a community (i.e., a group) as an escape or social activity.

We frame a lot of our discussions in the context of personal or professional advancement.

But I’m also a member of some Marvel meme groups on FB, Bluey groups for dads, and coffee+tech clubs on Discord.

All I want out of those is some sense of belonging and connection with other nerdy parents who have common interests.

We’re social creatures. That’s one of the best things about the web. Even introverts like myself can find a place to hang out.

There’s something there, IMO, that speaks to a higher level of what community is really about.

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Very good points @andymci

The value people often get out of a community can be certainly be things like:

  • belonging
  • entertainment
  • fun
  • inspiration
  • relief
  • distraction

Yeah, I was thinking about that, but I still think it’s about getting from A to B, just in that context it’s about connecting deeper with x amount or type of people.

I join communities/groups for that reason too, and I kind of see it as my goal to grow with other people, if not then it won’t serve my needs.

That’s true. With any community we start with a problem or a need and by being part of the community that problem or need is addressed, which can include professional or hobbyist needs or a personal need to feel connected and heard.

It’s helpful to see some posters mention needs or problems that aren’t related to being a customer or professional. We have decades of research and good practice showing there are several types of communities (or proven ways of bringing people together).

I think part of the realism needed in the profession is to look back at we already know or what already works and then innovate or develop from that foundation. That would solve a lot of the problems I’m seeing folks run into at the moment!

Agree with the above. A lot of the communities I join are not really to get me from A to B but rather just find like minded people to nerd out with or share an interest that my IRL people don’t have.

Some communities do both. A running community I belong to offers kinship and advice from people further ahead in that skill than me.