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My 3 All Time Favorite Communities (& Why)
By michaelpace on November 26, 2012
I’ve used a lot of analogies to help explain communities and community management to executives and business owners:
- A community is not a sandbox for your customers to play in. Nothing grows in a sandbox. Think of it as a garden. A garden requires structure and planning, needs to be seeded (with content), weeded (for trolls), and as it grows you need to manage it differently.
- Martha Stewart would be an amazing community manager. If you think of your community as a party venue for your customers, your company is the group hosting the shindig, and the community manager is the party host. The party host sets up, lines up the entertainment, provides the beverages and apps, makes introductions to like party-goers, and kicks out the guy with the lampshade on his head. Over the course of the party, some attendees (super users) start picking up duties like coat check, welcoming, and making beer runs.
But sometimes even the best analogies and metaphors cannot tell the story like actual examples. Whether it is help people understand communities and community management or just for my own personal enjoyment, here are my 3 All Time Favorite Communities. (In no particular order)
Oh, how I miss Lost. I miss Lost for the mind bending episode turns, getting to know the characters, and the mystery of the show. Were they in purgatory, or hell? What is in the hatch? What was that running around the woods, maybe it’s a dinosaur. The first two seasons, I was lost too. Then I started to discover more lost/Lost people. There were the interweb people, such as the folks who added to Lostopedia, an incredibly helpful guide to understanding everything Lost (such as the possible reasons the statue only had four toes to all the literary references). It became my reference guide. I started reading the Lost blogs, and trying to hide from the spoilers. Then I started finding people in the “flesh world”. We started having early morning Thursday meetings to discuss what we saw last night. People would attend with notepads full of ideas, predictions, and easter eggs. Even when I switched companies between seasons 5 and 6, my new company had a Lost community. We shared a common interest and purpose. While I am not sure we actually ever added any value to the world, it was must “be” TV. During the last season, I discovered Twitter, and the world of the second screen. I instantly increased my Lost community by thousands. I could watch the show unfold, and listen or add commentary in real time. I either stretched the capacity of my brain or did some serious damage, either way, I would do it again. Oh, how I yearn for just 1 show to make me feel that way again.
The Grateful Dead
Possibly the greatest community of all time, and some amazing marketers too (just ask David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan authors of Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead). It is amazing looking back how far ahead of their time The Dead were in terms of community management maturity. Before the consideration of the idea of community management, they built, grew, maintained, added advocates for decades. Even with their most iconic lead gone, the community thrives on. If we use the Community Roundtable’s Community Maturity Model as a guide, The Dead (even today) would be one of a very short few who have reached Stage 4 (Network) competency in multiple areas.
Leadership: Distributed leadership has enabled The Dead community to thrive well beyond the Grateful Dead themselves. Dead Heads (or their super-users) took up the reins decades ago. They built the tailgate experience, made the music viral, and were the governors of the culture.
Culture: The Dead’s culture quickly moved from Reactive, to Contributive, to Emergent, and finally to Activist. Much of their Culture progression was based on the activist and giving values of the band, and those values quickly spread through their fans. Today we see the same type of culture and activism with a company such as Life is Good.
Content: Whether you are a fan of the music or not, The Dead’s content (like many communities) is the live blood. Their music was the foundation for all the media they and their community members created and spread. They allowed their fans to create bootlegs, which were copied and dubbed on tape players hundreds of times. These bootlegs spread the music much further than the officially released albums ever could.
During the month of November, hundreds of thousands of men around the world grow mustaches in support of raising awareness and funding for men’s health issues, such as prostate and testicular cancer. Movember manages the community of hairy lips, and does two things especially well; they create edu-taining content and reward their super-users. Edu-taining content, or content that educates while you are entertained, is a sure fire methodology to keep your members engaged. Whether your company sells incredibly popular widgets or boring data management systems, your members and potential customers are still humans, and we like to be entertained. Find ways to make your content interesting.
Movember also does a wonderful job of recognizing and rewarding their best community members. Members receive awards and prizes for different levels of donation participation. Movember provides members with easy to use sites [my site], which show donations, reward updates, and badges for years participated. They also host fantastic Gala parties at the end of the month to thank everyone for their hard and hairy work.
Do you have a favorite community or communities?
What about those communities keep you engaged?
What’s missing from your community to make it memorable?