What Drives Community?
Sitting through keynotes at the Australia and New Zealand SharePoint Conferences last month, I had some time to think about community building – both inside your company and external to your company. Both of the events featured Mark Miller and Joel Oleson talking about community, and sharing some details of their most recent activities around Asia-Pacific. While they did a great job of highlighting the macro-level view of community, what was missing were the tactical steps it takes to get started — and this is generally the help that people are looking for from those in the expert community. It was with this need in mind that I authored a free e-book on the topic, available here.
But back to the question: what drives community? Mark succinctly captured the essence of community when he said "Community is about participation and contribution."
At the core, people need to participate. Having been involved in several user groups, I recognize that in many cases there is one person who holds things afloat, drives the content, and coordinates all activities. I love having these people in a community – the influencers, the connectors – because they are the people who see a need and try to fill it, taking action so that the broader community can benefit. However, once that person leaves, it usually all falls apart.
A healthier model is where you have multiple stakeholders, with defined roles and responsibilities, and a sharing of those responsibilities. Develop a committee, with clear areas of ownership, and solid commitment. You need people, and you need them to contribute.
Another important aspect of community building is to just do what makes sense. While this sounds overly generic, the point here is that you cannot force community on the unwilling. Introduce ideas and methods that make sense for your organizational needs and culture. Only move as fast as your organization can handle. As Mark points out, “Listen to participants. Conversation will dictate when it’s time to expand the vision.”
For more tactical and practical steps for building out your community, please take a look at my free e-book. While focused on the SharePoint community, most of the suggestions and links will apply to just about any community-building effort, and can help you get your own initiatives off the ground.
As always, your ideas and feedback are welcome. If I add your idea to the e-book, I’ll give you full credit and provide links to you and your business inside the e-book.