10 Indisputable Reasons Communities are the Center of our Lives

March 20, 2014

Communities are the Center of Our Lives


Photo source: Steven Warburton on flickr.

Note: I originally published this post on the DNN software blog.

In my day job at DNN, I spend a lot of time creating marketing content around our online community solution. As a result, I read a lot of content on community management and speak to quite a few community managers.

One afternoon, I published a blog post about online communities, then left the office to run an errand. As I walked to my car, a thought occurred to me: while we spend a lot of time in online communities, we spend far more time in offline communities.

Consider an online enthusiast community (e.g. gamers, sports fans, etc.). Then, consider your family. We don’t call our family a “community” (at least I don’t), but there are similarities between our enthusiast “family” (of like-minded people) and our real family (of parents, siblings, cousins and more).

Let’s highlight ten “communities” that form the center of our lives.

1) Family

family photo

Photo source: User Kables on flickr.

As we exit the womb and enter the world, we’re welcomed by our first community: our family. It starts with our parents and extends to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Down the road, a sibling or two may enter the fray. Our childhood is a series of “community events” and community rituals: gathering at the dinner table, elementary school graduation, grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary and so on.

2) Work

In a traditional office setting, our work community is the colleagues we see in the office every day. The community extends to remote offices, partners and clients. For some, the “work community” is a key reason for taking a job. For those who are self-employed (i.e. and work from home), there’s still a community of clients (note: the self-employed might have a few pets that sit to the side (or on top) of their desks).

3) Professional Associations

To quote the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), “A sense of community coordination is at the heart of the association profession.” According to their website, ASAE estimates that over 90,000 professional associations exist in the United States. Here in the Bay Area, I belong to the Silicon Valley Product Management Association, which holds a meeting every month.

4) Sports Teams

Photo source: Elvert Barnes on flickr.

I root for a mix of Bay Area and New York teams: the Sharks (NHL), Warriors (NBA), Yankees (MLB) and Giants (NFL). Every professional sports team includes a rabid community of fans. We gather at arenas and we gather online. Sometimes, we call in to sports radio stations after the game. We share a strong common bond.

5) Neighborhoods

The house we purchase or the apartment we rent comes attached with a community: the neighborhood. I’ll check in on a neighbor’s house when they’re out of town and catch up with them at a Labor Day block party. Our neighborhood uses Nextdoor, an online community platform. In our Nextdoor community, we converse about school events, list items for sale (or for free) and ask about plumbers and accountants.

6) Circles of Friends

We build and establish friendships through all works of life: school, work, play, etc. When we go out and have fun, we’ll invite a number of friends along. Sometimes, we’re the single common bond among these “friends.” We introduce them to one another. In that way, we serve to forge new connections among people, like any good community manager would do.

7) TV Shows


Photo source: Gino Carteciano on flickr.

Whether it’s 60 Minutes or House of Cards, we all have a favorite TV show (or series). Some lend themselves more to passionate communities (of fans) than others. My favorite series include Chicago Fire and The Americans. If I get a chance to catch a program “live” (in prime time), I’ll peek on Twitter to see what viewers are talking about. There’s also a service called tvtag (formerly called GetGlue). Services like these help build stronger bonds within a given community.

8) Alumni Groups

My alma mater has an alumni magazine. I receive the magazine a few times a year, along with separate mailings that urge me to donate to the university. Regionally, my alma mater has a Bay Area alumni group with a corresponding Facebook Group. There are events scheduled every few months.

I recently discovered a Facebook Group for my high school graduating class. It was fascinating to see familiar names and faces there. For past jobs I’ve worked at, I find numerous alumni groups on LinkedIn, where we can keep in touch.

9) Parenting Groups

Those of us with kids know how parenting can serve as a strong bond (with other parents). Parents of newborns will gather to talk about the shared experience of raising a baby. In elementary school, parents will volunteer on the PTA, as well as at school events and fundraisers. As our kids graduate to a new school, we’ll meet new parents and make new friends.

10) Politics

Some of us are far more passionate about politics than others (I consider myself less passionate). Regardless, we associate with communities. In the U.S., we might align with the Democratic or Republican parties. We might declare ourselves independents. Or we might align ourselves with the Tea Party movement.


If you work in online communities, take a step back from time to time and think about life in general. As you leave the office (or go offline), you’ll begin to see all the amazing communities that form the center of our lives. Go be a great community manager. Of life!

Community Management Blog Series

community management blog series

Colleague Clint Patterson published a great blog series on how to create sustained engagement in online communities. Check out Part 1 of Clint’s series, where you’ll find links to Parts 2 and 3.

Steal These Community Management Tips from CMX Summit Presenters

February 8, 2014

CMX Summit

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Community Management Tips Learned from CMX Summit

The first ever CMX Summit was held in San Francisco. It’s “a new event bringing together the world’s greatest community minds to share unique perspectives, experiences and ideas all around community building.”

The event included a full day of captivating talks from community management experts. And as you’d expect when a group like this assembles, there was a lot community building among the participants. Let’s take a look at some community management tips that I took away from attending this event.

The Importance of Building Trust

Community managers should understand how the mind works. By understanding how to inspire trust, you can motivate community members to take actions aligned to the goals of your community.

Robin Dreeke

Robin Dreeke, photo courtesy of CMX Summit.

Look no further than the head of the FBI behavioral analysis program to help show you the way. Robin Dreeke ( @rdreeke) is a behavioral and rapport building expert (at the FBI) and author of the book “It’s Not All About Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone” (here’s the link to the book on Amazon ).

With regard to community members, it’s pretty simple:

  1. Understand what they want
  2. Help them achieve it

Community Management Tip:

“It’s not all about me” is a perfect mindset for community managers . It’s not about you (the community manager) and it’s not about the community. It’s about “them” (your members). Have a single-minded focus on helping them. Your members will begin to trust the community manager, then the larger community, then your organization’s brand. Help them first and then they’ll help you.

Read the summary at The Community Manager:

Why Should They? Trust Strategies for Every Situation (by Ashley Hayes)

Build Your Community Around Rituals

Emily Castor

Emily Castor, photo courtesy of CMX Summit.

You’ve probably heard of Lyft, especially if you live in the Bay Area. Lyft is a popular ride-sharing service that’s grown its business via community building. In an article published by TechCrunch , Lyft co-founder John Zimmer said, “Building community is what drives me and makes me so happy to work on this.”

Emily Castor is Director of Community Relations at Lyft. She presented the Lyft story, which revolves around its community and the rituals that have emerged within it. Castor noted the importance of the pink mustache that’s attached to the front of drivers’ cars (side note: it’s intentionally shaped in the form of a smile).

Riders are invited to sit in the front seat. This alters the nature of the driver/rider relationship . It’s no longer vendor/customer: instead, it’s simply two people having a conversation on the way to a destination. Lyft drivers give a fist bump (to riders) to thank them at the conclusion of a ride.

These rituals help shape Lyft’s customer experience. In turn, it helps shape their brand and makes their brand unique.

Community Management Tip:

For online communities, seek and encourage similar rituals. Rather than be creator of those rituals, be the sponsor. #FollowFriday is a ritual that emerged on Twitter. What if your community started something similar?

Read the summary at The Community Manager:

Crafting a Self-Sustaining Community Culture: The Power of Ritual, Purpose, and Shared Identity (by Ashley McGregor Dey)

To Build a Sustainable Community, Have a Firm Foundation

Ligaya Tichy

Ligaya Tichy, photo courtesy of CMX Summit.

Ligaya Tichy provided community management insights learned from managing communities for Yelp, Airbnb and others. Oftentimes, community managers like to get deep into the trenches with tactics, metrics and the like, before taking a look at the big picture.

And that was my biggest takeaway from Tichy’s talk: focus on the key pillars of any community:

  1. Learning
  2. Play
  3. Support

Community Management Tip:

At the end of each week, assess the activities in your online community that week . Did you help members learn something new? Did you afford them the opportunity to have some fun? And finally, were they able to get answers to their questions, or resolutions to their issues? If you do this exercise weekly, then take action to address any shortfalls, your community will be the better for it.

Side note: there’s a fourth pillar I’d add, which is “recognition.” Being recognized (within a community of your peers) helps build a sense of reward, which creates tighter bonds within the community.

Read the summary at The Community Manager:

The Evolution of Communities – Social Design and Key Metrics for Every Stage (by Ashley Hayes)

Connect Individually with Community Members

Ellen Leanse

Ellen Leanse, photo courtesy of CMX Summit.

During the 1980’s, Ellen Leanse was a user evangelist for Apple and founder of the Apple User Group Connection. In other words, Ellen was a community manager before the term was coined. On her first day on the job, Ellen received a stack of papers well over two feet high. They were letters from angry customers.

Ellen jumped right in and started calling them. One of the customers Ellen called was Dave Lavery, a NASA scientist who would later play a significant role in the creation of the Mars Rover. Not only did Ellen address Lavery’s issue, but she continued to check in from time to time. “ It’s important to stay in touch,” Leanse said in her talk.

Community Management Tip:

This tip is taken directly from Leanse’s talk: each week, pick up the phone and call 3-5+ community members. Ask them how things are going and how you can make their participation more useful. You’re guaranteed to have a positive ROI from these calls.

Read the summary at The Community Manager:

Lessons from the History of Communities – Why They Matter Today and Tomorrow (by Ashley Hayes)


The first ever CMX Summit was splendid. If you were there, perhaps you had similar takeaways as mine. If you weren’t there, I hope you’re able to apply some of these tips in your own communities.

Community Management Blog Series

community management blog series

Colleague Clint Patterson published a great blog series on how to create sustained engagement in online communities. Check out Part 1 of Clint’s series, where you’ll find links to Parts 2 and 3.

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