Community Binary: The 1s and 0s of Community Development

This is a guest post written by Caleb Love originally posted on LinkedIn on January 15, 2019.

I am kind of a SciFi junky so this will most likely not be my last movie reference. In the Matrix, there are some amazing fight scenes with guns that never seem to run out of bullets, and heroes narrowly dodging them as they cut through the air in waves, but things get really interesting when the protagonist, Neo’s eyes are opened and he sees and understands the 1s and 0s that make up the core of the matrix (the virtual world where he finds himself in). At this realization, his world changes for him. He no longer even tries to dodge the bullets shot at him. Having been involved in every aspect of communities from strategy, design, building, managing, and growing them I have come to have a few thoughts about what the binary is behind successful community development.

I believe, there are a few fundamental things businesses get wrong about communities. The greatest being that they are asking the wrong questions focusing on the “bullets” rather than what is actually happening, or better yet, that they don’t understand what questions they SHOULD be asking.

community dev

When you step back from all the conversations about what features and functionality a community should have, which platform is the best, or what kind of content you want to post and drill down to the root of what happens in a community you can begin to see them differently. The community is no longer a bunch of people talking together. Instead, it is an ecosystem of individuals and audiences forming connections to exchange value. Everyone is both providing and seeking value from the community. Truly strategic communities form at the connecting crossroads where all parties involved can receive the greatest benefit, with the caveat that value is also determined differently for each party involved.

So I reframed the question who cares? Everyone should. When the conversation changes to focus on value and the audiences exchanging it, the impact and role communities play becomes much more powerful. The community becomes a facilitator for value exchange and everyone involved becomes equal partners in sharing what value they can provide, in exchange for the greatest benefit. Even the role your business plays changes. Your business, internal teams, and stakeholders, external 3rd parties, customers, and potential customers, all become equal players in conversations revolving around value.

You begin to ask the right questions.

  • Focus first on the value: Who are the audiences playing in our community ecosystem? What do they offer to each other? What is each seeking? Why are they seeking it? What is valuable to them? Why? What value is each providing the other? What additional value could they provide to another audience? Our business and teams are also audiences in this ecosystem so, what unique value does our business hope to provide? What are our core objectives? What are our current pain points? What do we want and value? Why?
  • Then comes the exchange: Amongst the audiences, which connections can be formed and nurtured to bring about the greatest value for the greatest number of community members? What unique value can they offer each other? How can they solve each other’s problems? What unique offerings does the community need to provide to introduce them, bring them together, and get them participating with each other? Are their partners within and without the business that can be leveraged to help grow and build the community’s value? What can the community provide to keep the audiences involved and sharing value?

The other discussions can then begin to re-enter the picture but focusing on these two elements first changes the direction of the community to act as a facilitator to help organizations better interact and execute on their strategies. It is no longer an additional item to add to someone’s plate to keep their customers busy and happy or a place where people do their work for them, but a strategic and dynamic lever the business can pull to better implement its initiatives. It isn’t additional work, it becomes a collaborative and often much more powerful way of doing the work. 

About the Guest Author: Caleb Love

Caleb is a Salesforce community cloud consultant and administrator with over 10 years of experience working with collaborative technology and building community ecosystems. Having been an analyst, social media and community strategist, and now Salesforce community cloud consultant he has experienced a 360 view of community development from concept, to requirements and design, to organizing and leading teams, to actually building the platforms. 

Find Caleb Love on LinkedIn.

Read more expert interviews and guest blogs here.

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