Let’s start from the beginning …
With the most fundamental element of all when it comes to building a successful online community:
Understanding what a community is and does.
In his book The Art of Community, Charles Vogl defines community this way:
A group of individuals who share a mutual concern for one another’s welfare.
It’s a simple definition, but the simplicity is doing a lot of work.
The fundamental difference between a community and a group
Notice that it’s not “a group of individuals who share a common interest” … or “a group of individuals who live in the same neighborhood” … or “a group of individuals to converse a lot online.”
It’s “a group of individuals who share a mutual concern for one another’s welfare.”
And this idea of a mutual concern for the welfare of other group members suggests a much deeper level of connection than what often gets described as an “online community.”
People have to be more than just interested in each other; they have to care about one another.
Shared interests can make for entertaining and informative groups, but they aren’t enough on their own to reach that deeper level of community — the deeper level we are trying to build that provides a sense of belonging, delivers meaningful outcomes, and can form the basis of a profitable business.
What does this mean for community leaders?
So what this means for you, as the leader of the community, is that you have to lead by example in having genuine concern for the welfare of your community’s members.
You have to be the catalyst who sets the tone of caring and kindness so that members will understand it’s a fundamental value of this community.
This is where your Primility mindset comes in, where servant leadership is necessary.
Because to lead others in developing a concern for each other’s welfare, you need enough pride to believe you are the right person to lead this group toward some meaningful set of outcomes, and it has to be balanced with enough humility so that you understand your success as a community leader is tied directly to the aggregate success of the members of the community.
In other words: you need to deliver stuff — education, experiences, ideas, etc. — that people are interested in, but more importantly you have to care about that stuff actually making a positive impact on their lives.
Guided by this Primility mindset, you can lead a successful and potentially even profitable community.
Without it, you might be able to lead an interesting and popular group, but that’s probably your ceiling. And your path to profit gets much more difficult without the fabric of community keeping people connected to what you’re doing.
Defining Community | Charles Vogl
Advice from someone who’s been there, done that
Jay Clouse wrote an epic blog post about what makes an online community successful. He includes his own personal reviews of several different community platforms like Discourse, Mighty Networks, and the new kid on the block, Circle.
This line fits right in line with the theme of this issue of Primility:
Community has to be about serving people. If you aren’t serving people – if people aren’t finding connection, transformation, or identity within the space – then it will fail.
Jay’s post is so thorough that I’ll just leave it at that for this week. Take some time and read the whole thing.
Please consider forwarding this issue of Primility to a friend who wants to be a better servant leader, build a strong online community, or, preferably, both. 😉
Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash