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5 Key Elements for Making Communities Work

by Stefan Lindegaard
June 8, 20116/8/11 4 Comments

When I give talks on the intersection of open innovation and social media, I often get into discussions on what it takes to make a community work.

This also happened when I met with the participants of the HYPE User Community, which is a group of corporate innovation people using HYPE innovation products and services. By the way, HYPE seems to be doing a great job : – )

I have some experience on making communities work as I have witnessed several initiatives and by running my own groups and networks in both the virtual and physical world. I would argue that the below 5 elements are key to success.

1. “Need”. Many community owners or initiators take it for given that their intended target group has a need for this group or community. This is not always true and they need to remember that they are asking for the most precious thing potential participants have – that is time. They need to find some good reasons for “bothering” them with yet another community or group.

2. Value. If there is a genuine need for connecting and enabling stakeholders within a community or ecosystem, you still have to point out the specific value. One little example could be to help provide an overview of what is going on in the given ecosystem. Information overload is a big problem leaving opportunities for community owners to help solve this.

3. People. You need to have people that really believe in the need of and see the potential value creation in such a community. They must listen to the stakeholders in order to build the features needed and they must act as facilitators helping the stakeholders get to know each other and helping them to get value of the community.

4. Communication. If you are selling a vision as you do when you launch such a community, you need to have a strong communication plan. What stories can be used to recruit the right members and make the current users even more active? Remember that communication on messages is just as important as communicating on products and services.

5. Persistence. It is very difficult to create successful communities that are worthwhile to the stakeholders while also bringing innovation or business opportunities to the owners. It requires lots of experimentation to find the right model and this requires lots of persistence – and time.

This is also caused by the fact that well-run communities succeed not only by delivering value for the stakeholders, but also because of the trust and respect it has gained. This takes time.

These are my starters on this. What do you think?

Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. kgmcfarthing says:

    Hi Stefan,

    I think communities are as much about what people feel as what they do. They must feel they have a vested interest. They feel a sense of ownership, they are part of THEIR community, not just a member of something owned by somebody else. They see themselves mentally as on the inside looking out, not the other way. They feel strongly affiliated and talk about it positively. If they don't feel positive about it (it doesn't need to be perfect), they aren't truly a community member.


  2. fail92fail says:

    Hi Stefan,

    There is an overlap/redundancy between need and value. I would consider them as one instead of two separate entities.

    People is of course a necessary component. In my view communication, while essential for existence of any group, is not an entity uniquely identifying/characterizing a community. In my view persistence and communication need to be embedded in a bigger picture, that of activities/events/initiatives that keep and sustain the community together.

    There needs to be, as a result of people coming together around number of activities/events/initiatives/interests, a creation of an aura/ambiance generated/synthesized from community on a psychological level.


  3. Randy Fisher says:

    Support – I think it is essential for folks within the community to support each other – whether by encouragement, writing scripts or engaging in behaviors that advance the cause of the community – strengthening and reinforcing it and building its credibility. It starts to 'feel' like a cozy culture that meets multiple needs.

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