20 year content strategy veteran, Sharon Burton. Sharon Burton consults about content strategy, content business issues, social media and managing post-sales customer experience issues.

Building community actually requires work

Building community actually requires work

Strangely, one of the things my PhD work is about is what makes a community – what is required for a community to form and for it to continue to exist? I was working with communities managing a commons resource, and I’m amused how applicable my entire dissertation is to the social media world today.

Building the conditions

For a community to form and to continue, a group of people need to find value in interacting over time. We typically interact face to face at least once a week and we have the expectation that this will continue over time into the future. If we are managing a commons resource, such as forest, we probably all live around the forest, so these conditions are pretty easy to meet.

But in the online world today, we don’t all live in the same place. We may not even live in the same hemisphere. We may never meet face to face. But we can expect this loose interaction to continue over time into the future.

What is a resource?

A resource is something that people find value in – typically it’s something one can eat or make a living out of or need to survive, such as a forest, or water, or fishing grounds.

For the resource to exist over time, we have to manage it. If we don’t manage it, then everyone takes as much as they want and uses it all up faster than it can replace itself (this is called renewing or recharging). This overuse is called overdriving the resource and it’s bad. The resource collapses and vanishes if we overdrive it. A vanished resource benefits none of us and destroys the community because everyone starves to death or something else not good.

Your resource needs to be renewed so that it doesn’t run out, or in the content world, get stale. Too much resource all at once floods everyone, but too little resource starves everyone. We want it to be just right. That just right is the managing it part.

Is content a resource? If it is, how does a community get involved?

In the last 18 months or so, the marketing world has discovered that content is a resource, in that it has value to a community, or at least the content could have value to a community.

This is the elephant in the marketing room: How do you develop content that people want to build a community around? Because that’s the order in which a commons works – first people have to see that a resource has value. Then they build a community around it.

There are a lot of answers to this question. I will address some of them in future blog posts, but feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Your thoughts and mine

Let’s start with: frequency of content is important.

Take a look at your blogs and social media plans. Are you blogging once a quarter? That’s 4 times a year your resource is renewed so your community can use it. In effect, you “fed” your community a meal 3 months ago. I suspect they migrated elsewhere for a more stable resource. I would. We are living in a resource-rich content environment.

It’s going to be hard to keep your community around if you only replenish your resource every few months. You content is an uncertain resource and those don’t get interacted with very often. People blow thru on the way to another, more stable resources. Is that what you want from your community?

By Sharon Burton

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