What do you think of when you hear the word
Do you think of your local town, a membership group or association?
There are so many ways that we define community these days, it’s important that we stay connected to what a community truly means. For me, the simple action of ‘communing’ comes to mind. Coming together to share, connect and be a part of something bigger than myself. So for those reasons, all of the above mentioned examples ring true.
Can we come together and have meaningful community online?
It’s a great question to reflect on. To dive into this further, let’s peel apart the essence of a community a bit further, including what online companies have tried to enable community. To cultivate a community that can thrive, one needs to have a purpose. Something that unifies people in some way. There needs to be a safe space to share ideas, provide support and hopefully learn and grow together. People are not willing to share openly when they do not feel safe.
So which well known companies have tried their hand at this?
The largest and most notable is Facebook. They have amazing features, reach and exposure, but do they truly enable communities to grow and flourish? Mark Zuckerberg has even written a recent manifesto about his desire to evolve their groups platform, to enable more rich and nourishing community experiences. Our sense is that they have the potential. Their tools and accessibility make Facebook a no brainer for virtually any community.
The issue they currently face, is that there is way too much noise, and advertising. They also lack any way to create a learning environment. Perhaps a powwow with our team could lead to some interesting outcomes. Many wellness companies like Fitbit, Grokker, as well as mindfulness apps like Calm, Headspace and Simple Habit have put their spin on communities. They have ways for people to join group challenges together, and to make basic comments. Though they have some strong elements for a successful online community (a common theme, purpose and goals for growth) they lack the essence of a community. People are not able to truly connect and support one another in these host of apps and online tools.
How do you build a successful online community?
Having worked to build a range of diverse online wellness and learning communities, our team thinks about this everyday. What we have found is that you have to leverage the best of what technology can do to enable true connection, idea sharing and support. It needs to be a fun and easy environment… where the tech gets out of the way, thereby leaving a seamless and engaging experience. This will lead to natural interactions. Platforms and apps that attempt to create features or experiences that try to mirror or match the magic that happens in person, fail. This is not tenable. Technology can do things that in person experiences cannot, like scale human connection across time and geography, so find tools that do this!
We believe that having a deeply meaningful focus like transformational wellness or learning programs is the final key ingredient. This grounds people in that aforementioned common purpose in an authentic way, derived from people’s innate motivations and hopes for the future. Once you activate this type of environment and give people the ability to connect and share, you will have the foundation set for impact!
What apps, tools or platforms have you used that truly empower online community?