Every community’s strength is built on common ground. From belief in a religious perspective to love of a certain set of cartoon characters, all communities share a common ground. However, common ground isn’t enough to keep a community together. There needs to be a unifying mechanism that brings together that community, that reminds and refreshes the reason it exists.
Some communities have conferences and conventions. Those events bring the like-minded together for intense bonding experiences with other community members.
Some communities have simple physical proximity. Living in the same neighborhood reinforces the sense of community among its residents.
Some communities have publications. What graduate of any major college doesn’t get the quarterly alumni magazine, increasingly filled with pictures of people you don’t know?
The most successful communities have an active connection mechanism. Discussion groups, forums, even just a Facebook Page are enough to keep members in contact with each other and strengthening the community in the absence of another form of feedback. If you recall social impact theory, a community’s influence over its members is based on three factors:
- Strength: How important is the influencing group to the target of the influence
- Immediacy: How close in proximity and in time is the influencing group to the target of the influence
- Number: How many people are in the influencing group
One of the reasons I advocate strongly for a weekly newsletter, for frequent (relevant) social postings, for staying in touch with your audience is that you may not necessarily have 100% control over the number of people in your community. You may not have control over how important your customers perceive you to be in their lives. You have 100% control of how often you contact them, how often you interact with them, how close you are to them in frequency. The channels we have access to – email newsletters, social media, telephone support, our web properties, our podcasts, etc. – are our unifying mechanisms, but they only work when we use them. As long as we’re providing relevant, helpful services, an increased tempo works better than a decreased one these days in order to keep that sense of immediacy.
WHat is your community’s unifying mechanism, and how often do you use it?
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