Community is king: a simple equation

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Content is no longer king.

It hasn’t been for some time, ever since we realized as a marketing community that Content Shock has hit us hard. Between an ever-increasing abundance of content and algorithms designed to reduce the effectiveness of unpaid reach, content has been dethroned. Is it still important? Absolutely. Is it the most important thing? No.

So, if content isn’t king, who is? I would make the argument that community is, and has been for some time. But what is community?

Community, from the perspective of marketing and especially social media marketing, is an equation:


Community = Content x Conversation x Caring x Commonality.

Content is still important. A community is defined in part by its content, by what is shared in it. Think about your community interactions. Your people share stuff with you, and you share stuff with your people. Content isn’t going away by any means. It’s simply part of a bigger picture.

Conversation is part of the community equation. A community that never speaks is not a community. Your email marketing list, if people never connect and converse, is just a database, not a community. A community needs a place to speak, from a Facebook Group to a Slack channel to a real world conference.

Caring is what brings people back to the community. If you don’t care about the members of your community, if you don’t go out of your way to help them and help them help each other, then they will no longer care about you. They will find other places, other people who care.

Commonality is what defines the community’s purpose. What do the members have in common? Is it a view of the world? A belief? A personal attribute or dimension? Understanding what your members have in common helps guide content, conversation, and caring.

Note that the equation above is multiplicative. If any one of the factors is zero, the entire result is zero: no community exists. No caring? No community. No conversation? No community.

If any one of the factors is negative, it negates the entire equation. A community can have all the right content, a strong common ground, and intense conversation, but if caring is negative, if people actively go out of their way to be hostile to each other, it destroys your community.

This is why building a sustainable community is so difficult: you have to align all the factors in order to make a working community. However, if you do get it right, you build a powerful advocacy force for your organization.

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