How to build a community

Last week, I found myself in a macrobiotic vegan restaurant. (That’s what happens when you are dating a vegan!) On the wall, they had the image below, titled “How to build a community”. I thought it was a great list, as it showcased the idea that small tasks and reactions are often as important as broad reaching programs. Picking up litter, for instance, is a great way to not only clean up your neighborhood to the visual betterment of everyone that lives there, but it’s a wonderful way to connect yourself more deeply to your surroundings.

Sure this list might seem overly “new age”. But I’d actually challenge you to consider this list, as written, in the context of online social community. For instance:

  • Talk to a mail carrier = talk to a moderator. The better connected you are to the people who do the “support work” in a community, the better you understand the personalities and realities behind keeping the lights on.
  • Know your neighbors = pay more attention to the details that make up the personalities in your communities. Profiles exist in most community platforms, and many people fill out these profiles in great detail. But when was the last time you read someone’s profile to get a better sense of their personality and interests before responding to one of their posts/comments?
  • Honor elders = honor community elders. One thing that has always bothered me about online community dynamics is the frequency of dropout initial members have once a community really starts growing. Perhaps we should rethink how to honor the early membership as sites grow in a more specific way.
  • Listen to the birds = consider what form ‘quiet participation’ can take. One highly underrated feature of Facebook is the “like” function. This simple feature often gets overlooked in the discussion about changing online behaviors. But this interface element (and social dynamic) allows me to simply show a poster support of something they’ve posted/written/added/uploaded without requiring some form of “verbal” communication. So rather than seeing a ton of asinine, short burst comments, I can skip all that and still gauge general reaction. What is the next form of this “quiet participation”?

Read this list in its entirety. Think about how to translate the success and requirements of creating successful offline community into online community. How would you interpret these points in an online community context?