Can Existing Communities Survive?

by Jay Deragon on 12/14/2008

I participate in dozens of “social communities” and enjoy reading others post and getting feedback on my own post. As these “communities grow” sometimes it seems like “the good old boy politics” begins to creep into the fiber of a community only to turn the community into an anti-social place where the politics become more important than the open conversations.

It is this very behavior which bloggers have criticized the big brands for yet some community moderators think they are big and begin to create community rules, practices and behavior they learned from the big. By doing so they are planning the demise of the community they’ve tried to build.

What Is The “Community” Model?

In the early stages of all this social stuff people from different industries or business practices have created aggregated communities. These aggregated communities enable bloggers to add their own blogs to the community while maintaining their independence and their own blog identity. The typical aggregated community is supported by corporate sponsors who are looking to test the waters of “social media” and to attract a specific audience.

These aggregated communities are supported by advertising and sponsorships. The community moderators seek to recruit the “mega bloggers” whom add related content to the community that keeps the community engaged. They also attempt to create a “soft competitiveness” by listing things like “most read authors, highest rated authors or most comments on a particular post”. Additionally they enable a feature to list the highest rated post of the week and occasionally highlight “Bloggers of the Week” or best post of the week. The typical community has between 1,000 to 5,000 registered members.

While initially the model may seem logical it is not sustainable for several reasons. These include:

  1. Moderation of post begins to get anti-social due to petty politics or favoritism
  2. Unless a community has critical mass and grows exponentially on a regular basis, being replaced by brands is inevitable
  3. Members are already distracted by invites and involvement in other larger more dominant communities.
  4. Community aggregation by the Big is already underway segmented by topics, industry and geography
  5. Participants will migrate to the big looking for increased exposure and brand affinity
  6. The big will soon provide economic incentive for bloggers to participate, something the smaller communities can not afford.
  7. Aggregation will soon move to industry sites or to an existing major branded “news” brand that adopts the social practices and wants to truly collaborate with the small. i.e. Look at Business Weeks Business Exchange
  8. A few of the big brands will finally get it. In getting it they will adopt a more collaborative philosophy and create community models that truly engage the small and provide significant value to emerging markets driven by conversations.
  9. The difference between social networks and social media is becoming blurred and subsequently which network you belong to will no longer be relevant rather which community is the preferred community for your profession or for your personal interest.
  10. The “mesh” of the old media with the new will accelerate given the “wake up” call sent to the brands and the comprehension of “if you don’t engage you’ll loose”. Competition will be fierce.

Can Existing Communities Still Win?

If you moderate a large community centric to industry or topical matters and have active participation you do indeed have the chance to survive and thrive. The faster growing more vibrant communities will likely be sot out by the major brands aligning themselves with the opportunities created by all this social stuff. The attraction will be driven by several factors including:

  1. # of active participants
  2. The community philosophy and quality of content
  3. Growth rate of membership
  4. Known experts or high profile bloggers whom are active and endorse the community
  5. The quality of thinking and innovative approach to engaging community members
  6. The systemic understanding of the emerging markets created by conversations

On the other hand if your community does not focus on the above six value attributes then it isn’t likely to survive. Attraction and traction comes from doing the right things and doing them right. Both are centric to being social and adding more value than is expected without bias or politics.

What say you?

{ 1 comment }

Rob van Alphen August 19, 2008 at 5:30 am

reading “Can existing communities survive?”

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