The Community Gap

Rachel Happe, over at The Social Organization, recently posted an entry titled Social Media is not Community, outlining the broad differences between what distinguishes community from the conversations characterizing social media. Rachel’s general point is that even though social media can support community development, several key traits of communities make them distinct.

They are continuous, not temporal – this is not to say that people don’t drop in and out but there is a core membership that interacts together over a long period of time.

Communities gather around a concept or common goal not around a collection of content (although content does plays a major role, it is not the impetus for the community).

Communities take on various conversations and activities, led by different members over time – it is not one conversation but many.

People within communities get to know each other and interact regularly without centralized facilitation and not necessarily in the context of what the community is discussing as a whole.

Community leaders emerge over time as they continue to take proactive roles in the community and rally other members to their causes. These leaders are community members and they self-select because of their interests – not because they are told to do so…although they can be encouraged to do so.

Rachel adds that enterprises can take advantage of two opportunities relative to social media and community. The enterprise can use social media to start conversations among their stakeholders around content, initiatives, and goals. Or, enterprises can develop communities and sustain them over time in order to impact business processes. She believes enterprises don’t yet understand what is entailed in developing communities.

The points offered in Rachel’s post are provided empirical support in the recent 2008 Tribalization of Business Studysponsored by Beeline Labs, Deloitte and the Society for New Communications Research. The following results are offered as a summary of findings.

If done properly, the results of deploying or leveraging business communities are game-changing, not just level-setting.

Communities have the potential to change the way companies market their products and services, and fundamentally transform the role of the CMO [Chief Marketing Officer]. Is the 2.0 CMO on the horizon? It could be, but it will take some new management thinking before we get there.

There is a fundamental mismatch between the community goals that companies set for themselves and the investments they are making in them. That same mismatch occurs between their goals and how they measure progress and success.

…bad practices enjoy wide adoption – from the “build it and they will come” fallacy, to the “let’s keep it small so it does not move the needle” phenomenon, to the “not invented here” syndrome – which will result in many failures of community projects in the near future.

Seventy-nine percent of the communities studied focus externally, whereas twenty-one percent focus internally. Interestingly, the top two obstacles identified to making communities work were: “getting people to engage” and “finding enough time to manage the community.” These two obstacles speak directly to Rachel’s point that enterprises don’t yet grasp the dynamics and commitment needed to create and nurture communities. Even in instances where participants share commonly known goals, it takes time for communities to develop the self-organizing traits necessary to overcome the two obstacles identified.

The full results of the Tribalization study are the subject of a upcoming Deloitte-sponsored webinar on July 30th in case you would like to see the analysis in more detail.

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6 Responses to The Community Gap

  1. Rachel Happe says:

    Larry – I love the term “The Community Gap”. Thanks for republishing my post on the difference between conversations and communities enabled by social media and for pointing me to the Deloitte study which I hadn’t seen. At Mzinga we are working on models – and data – that support the operational disciplines and processes required to develop a successful community – the investment is far different than enabling a conversation on a website, as you know.

  2. Larry Irons says:

    Hi Rachel,

    Glad you stopped by and commented. I just listened to the Deloitte presentation, got in a bit late in it though, but overall it seemed worth the time.

  3. […] recent posts I discussed different gaps, from the community gap in particular to the encompassing engagement gap. Each of those discussions attempted to size up a […]

  4. […] Larry Irons of Skilfill Minds has talks about how the Delloite-sponsored 2008 Tribalization of Business Study supports Halle’s […]

  5. Joe Jenious says:

    Cool work, I need to hear more from you.Are you working in a Group that you can make such a cool Blog?

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