Current online technologies have made it easier than ever to participate in discussions with people with similar interests and passions. Barriers for connecting with others have never been so low, as enhanced forms of media have enabled us to convey ideas and share like never before. In a society obsessed with content, the internet and social media has changed the way that we discover this content and who is able to distribute it.
The internet has changed the role of community managers, and has given them a wider range of tools to encourage discussion and inclusion within the community. Social media is one of these tools, as pointed out in Minot State University’s study The History of Social Media and its Impact on Business. Syracuse Sync, a local web design community organized it’s first meetup mainly through Twitter. Word of the meetup spread through social media, speakers and sponsors found through Twitter conversations, and the conference was a great success. Since attending, many attendees have reached out and supported my endeavors.
However, a community does not only exist on social media, and other efforts are required in order to build a successful community. Building a community is not easy, it requires a focused strategy and attention to sustain. A community manager’s main goal is to create relationships within the community, and to no longer drive the conversation. That being said, there are four main stages of a community life cycle as outlined in Chapter 1 of “Buzzing Communities” by Richard Millington. Each stage has specific duties in order to maintain and grow a community.
This is first life stage of a community, where the manager starts building relationships and initiating discussions. At this point, the main goal is to reach critical mass, or when your community is actively generating the content and discussions. Reaching the point of critical mass is achieved by:
- Inviting people to join the community
- Initiating discussions
- Encouraging members to share and contribute
- Establishing one-on-one relationships
- Post content regularly
This stage is marked by the community reaching critical mass. Community manager’s role is to promote inclusiveness and regular activity by the members, acting as a moderator. At this point, focus is shifted to referrals, promotion of the community, and organizing events. Tasks include:
- Writing content
- Managing events and chats
- Resolving conflicts
- Analyzing data about community
- Referral growth tactics
- Establishing a strong sense of community
This stage level is when the activity level by members is the majority of the activity of the community. The community manager’s role is now to build publicity about the community and maintaing the general tasks. In addition, this stage will eventually plateau where the level of activity will be maintained at the highest point possible. The community is highly responsive and active, and is influential in its industry.
The final stage of the community cycle, where the community is very large and prominent. Subgroups form within the larger community, and the manager must make sure that the sentiment of being in a good community is still priority. The community manager supports the mini communities, and helps them become at critical mass.
This outline of the life cycles in “Buzzing Communities” is very clear in visualizing the goals and tasks for the community. Growing a successful community requires a lot of hard work and monitoring in order to create value for all participants.