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5 Trends Shaping Community Building for Businesses

Executive Summary

What is community building? Beyond bringing people with similar interests together, a community serves a variety of other purposes.

  • Any community worth its salt was founded on a set of core trends.
  • Good communities are characterized by their ability to provide access to global audiences, cheap tools, expertise, collaboration, and meaningful work.
  • A unique combination of users, promoters, and content creators support the operation of the most successful communities.

There is a bunch of opportunity buried in your common or garden-variety community, but . . .well . . . what exactly is a community?

Fundamentally, they are groups of people united by a common interest. They can be as small as a local book club that meets in a coffee shop on Tuesday evenings, or as big as a global community comprised of millions of users spread all over the world. They can be online, in-person, or a mixture of both. They can be formal and focused or loose and ad-hoc.

For example, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, was entirely built by a community of writers. Since its creation in 2001, contributors have compiled more than 22 million articles across 285 languages (and is valued at $6.6 billion by the Smithsonian).

What is Necessary to Community Building

If we were to slide any community under a microscope, we would see five important trends...They are the foundation for the incredible value that can be driven by businesses, organizations, and individuals who want to harness them.

  1. Access to a Growing, Globally Connected Audience

Unlike the local church group, today we have the opportunity to access a truly global audience. If there are people out there who share your interest, you can build a community. Cheap marketers simply spam this audience, but we are smarter than that. We are going to engage with them, build relationships, and generate and share value together.

  1. Cheap Commodity Tools for Providing Access

You can access and harness this global audience with readily available, affordable tools. Heck, you could start a community with free web hosting, a free forum, and free social media networks. The tools are not the most interesting part of the community equation; it is how we weave them into the ways people share and collaborate.

  1. Immediate Delivery of Broad Information and Expertise

Unlike the old weekly meeting at the local community center, this global audience is immediately addressable. We can share news, information, education, and more. We can get the word out more quickly and easily than ever before, stay in touch, and build relationships electronically and in person.

  1. Diversified Methods of Online Collaboration

As technology (and our broader understanding of it) evolves, we are figuring out new and interesting ways to work together. In ye days of old, we simply shared content. Today we can work together and collaborate around content and education, be it coding software, building hardware, writing books, making music, creating art, and more.

  1. Most Important: A Growing Desire for Meaningful, Connected Work

After discovering Ubuntu, one child from a rural village in Africa walked two hours to his local Internet café. He would answer questions from users, write documentation and help guides, translate Ubuntu into his local language, and more. Do you know why Abayomi walked for hours to his local Internet café? It was because the work was meaningful for him. He could have an impact. While physically he was a kid in the middle of Africa, digitally he was a global player in a movement for a greater good. Abayomi is not alone. This desire is intrinsic to the human condition, and we can harness it in our communities.

Features of the Most Successful Communities  

These five trends have been the foundation behind some impressive communities in recent years, many of which are from recognized brands such as Salesforce, Lego, Proctor & Gamble, and Nintendo.

These communities include users coming together to share information and guidance for others using a product, champions who actively create and consume content that promotes the success of the product or organization, and even groups of producers and creators who collaborate independently (often in conjunction with an organization’s employees) to build real, measurable value via derivative products and services.

In all of these cases, these communities are comprised of bright-eyed, enthusiastic volunteers who really care about those brands and products. No one is on the payroll, yet they do amazing work, consistently building broader brand awareness, creating content, and providing a home for like-minded users and customers.

Adapted from People Powered: How Communities Can Supercharge Your Business, Brand, and Teams by Jono Bacon, copyright Jono Bacon.

Bring It Home

Every morning, I go to the YMCA near my office to squeeze in a good sweat before work. Every morning, I prepare a cup of free coffee from the lounge area where, every morning, I encounter the same group of elderly athletes enjoying post-elliptical conversation over cranberry scones. Some days I overhear them talking about their granddaughter’s ballet recital. Other days, they’re helping each other figure out what that searing pain in their right knee might be. The topic varies, but the intent remains the same. These people are here for the community they’ve developed. They relish in sharing stories, giving and receiving advice, and engaging in a predictable routine that grounds their life. What is community building but a medium for making people feel like they aren’t alone? Are you thinking about building a community? Do you already have one? Share your ideas and organizations with us by commenting on the blog!

Jono Bacon

Every morning, I go to the YMCA near my office to squeeze in a good sweat before work. Every morning, I prepare a cup of free coffee from the lounge area where, every morning, I encounter the same group of elderly athletes enjoying post-elliptical conversation over cranberry scones. Some days I overhear them talking about their granddaughter’s ballet recital. Other days, they’re helping each other figure out what that searing pain in their right knee might be. The topic varies, but the intent remains the same. These people are here for the community they’ve developed. They relish in sharing stories, giving and receiving advice, and engaging in a predictable routine that grounds their life. What is community building but a medium for making people feel like they aren’t alone? Are you thinking about building a community? Do you already have one? Share your ideas and organizations with us by commenting on the blog! ~ HarperCollins Leadership Essentials

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