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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.