Community as a market strategy, as a channel and in some cases a business model, is the personal bias of my career.
It’s my way of understanding the world.
Truthfully, it’s always been somewhat ineffable and perplexingly inchoate. You can arrange the pieces in perfect order with invariably powerful results when it works, but it is as well, always unpredictable.
This is changing.
Community as an entity is becoming on one hand more critical for commerce, on the other, more deterministic, and more tangibly coupled to the networks they spring from.
And while the networks that wire our world become fewer, more powerful and data smart, community where human touch and collective engagement gather, becomes more critical as an after effect.
Networks today while some lament their impact on privacy and their monopolistic power, are the necessary counterpoints, in fact the subset of each community we participate in.
The dynamic between the networks we frequent and the communities we engage with define in many ways who we are as people and inevitably, whether the companies we work for and the causes we hold dear are successful.
It’s in this pairing of networks and communities where I start my work, with a handful of basic truths that regardless of the uniqueness of the community, invariably hold true.
The more I adhere to these ideas as starting points, invariably the better the results.
Networks are the strings that tie our world together, but communities are what gives them meaning.
Networks are a common factor, while horizontal communities are by definition unique and invariably-vertically focused. Maybe it’s a cause or a belief or a shared obsession, but communities are formed around common interest, not around friendships or place.
Saying that a network has an identity is a stretch; having a community without one is neigh impossible.
Network infrastructure is where technology shows itself at its best, but communities are where emotion and empathy, self organization, action and engagement happen.
Networks get continually smarter but this intelligence at its core is about driving the human connections to aggregate behaviors and beliefs than can form communities where the real work gets done.
The smarter the networks, the more extensive connections can surface. The more possibilities that in the end game communities can be formed.
Networks are the tangible things we can leverage, communities are the aspirational goals we set for them when they capture the imagination of a market.
The world’s population is already platformed on the social nets. The objective is discovering the hooks to surface and tie people together from this massive strata of humanity.
When we scratch this out on whiteboards and intersperse all these elements, leadership is something that surfaces as the key focus to channel enthusiasm into action, beliefs into organizations based on a collective drive. Discover the leaders and the language they use to tell their stories and you have a strong place to start.
Neither networks nor communities are tied to place as much as they are grounded in time.
Where people are matters of course and we need to understand the dynamics of speaking to people where they are, platform by platform.
But community, the aggregate of connection around a singular topic or belief, happens cross them all.
In time, not really in a place.
In some instances (though more rarely), communities exist at an address like your URl. On a bar stool at your neighborhood wine bar, but more and more, community is less and less like a club, more and more like an impromptu gathering regardless of location.
Platforming communities may indeed be a myth.
Community simply happens. Often in spite of the poverty of the infrastructure.
I want to believe in a platform that will enable every brand to manage its own community but I simply can’t discover it nor for all my attempts. Can’t seem to build it either. Trust me I’ve tried.
We certainly use vertical single-function solutions like Kickstarter to transact around a common community goal, but the community is not in one place, it is spread out across the web.
It lives everywhere but there.
This is a perfect wave.
Sometimes things just stack up and point to a new future.
Usually the pendulum swings in art, culture and technology, with emphasis on one extreme over another. One movement in reaction historically to what preceded it.
I believe that we are seeing a merging of opposites to a common goal.
It’s not data collection that matters, its interpretation. It’s not networks with increasing strong AI that matters, its where the smarts of the networks ends up coalescing around the human connections of the people in community groups.
A digital world driving an analog value.
There are few times where the science of data collection is at one with the needs of human expression.
It is happening right now.