This coming Wednesday December 12, I’ll be hosting the first Community Hacks Meetup event in Mountain View, CA.
I decided to start this event as I was keen to share and learn more about engaging, nuturing and growing communities. I wasn’t only interested in the social media part, that was however, mostly what I could find when it came to local community meetup events. I also wanted to discuss, and spread the ideas of deeper community participation, and ownership.
The group is for anyone in large organizations, non-profits and start-ups who currently leads, organizes, manages and engages online communities. It’s a place to exchange best practices, share challenges and solutions, and to ignite ideas!
For this December 12th event, I’m delighted to share that we have two excellent guest speakers:
Emily Goligoski, Design and Community Lead for the Mozilla Open Badges Project: ‘Rewarding and Motivating Your Community’
Robyn Tippens, Community Expert, Co-Founder of Mariposa Interactive and Author of Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community: ‘Best Tips for Managing Community on the Edges. When Things Don’t Go as Planned.’
If you are a community manger or leader, or want to be - you know that the success of your great idea and awesome product rests with a strong and passionate community. Community Hacks is a great place for learning, discussion and making great connections.
If you aren’t able to attend in person, I’ll be sure to give you a run down of the event later this week.
A shared history is a large part of what binds individuals into a community and imbues a group with a distinct identity. A history with a narrative thread also helps people understand what is happening around them. “The present,” according to the historian and philosopher David Carr, “gets its sense from the background of comparable events to which it belongs….Discovering or rediscovering the story, picking up the thread, reminding ourselves where we stand, where we have been and where we are going—these are as important for groups as for individuals.” Knowing the history of a group to which we belong, in other words, can help us see events, and ourselves, as part of a still unfolding story and of something larger than ourselves.
Great passage from the December issue of the Harvard Business Review ‘Your Company’s History As A Leadership Tool’. Highly relevent to be aware of your community’s history and share those stories often. Stories and the passage of time binds us together.
Over the past year we’ve begun to see and hear the word ‘community’ overly used in marketing circles. Community has become the new word for social media engagement, for customer acquisition, and by countless brands simply in the pursuit of being hip.
The truth is that community can be all these things and more, and only ‘if’ customers are citizens.
Today technology is empowering change across the world through communication and participation. The Arab Spring, top-ranking colleges opening up their courses to the world, such as MIT and Standford, and hard science questions being solved by the crowd to name but a few. People are rallying around causes they believe in, and taking action to make things better - and because the Internet has made it easier.
Online communities do not equal loyalty
Companies have also taken advantage of these new technologies, growing their own online communities with some brands having massive followings: (Disney 38 million or Samsung 19 million facebook fans). These big numbers have marketing departments assumming social media engagement will guarantee customer loyalty, or increased purchases. What they have created is a large ‘audience’ not a community. Audiences are always transitory, communities are long lasting.
Communities form and thrive when there is (1) a shared interest. For example within the commerical space, when a product is superior such as the iPhone or Nike Frees. And (2) when people are able to communicate with each other. Social media is a great commmunication tool to increase connections within a community, however, brands are still pursuing an audience broadcast method. If the brand does not allow for, and encourage creativity, expression and collaboration between it’s community, it’s efforts are worthless and engagement brief.
More than social media
We are truly at the tip of the iceberg for brands and community building. We predict loyalty and innovation in this next phase of the Internet will be especially driven by ‘participation’.
- What could happen if your customers could also be part of new product development?
- What could happen if your customers could directly fix a bug in their favourite software?
- What would happen if your fans co-created music with you their idol?
- What would happen if your customers co-invested in your R&D?
Then they no longer become only yours customers, but truly your community who want to see you succeed.
Brands have a massive opportunity to fully embrace what being part of a community means. People will follow you when the stakes are high and the message is clear. Think big and build communities together. They cannot be curated, they must be created, nurtured and grown by your community of citizens.
Earlier this year I was asked by the magazine ‘Second Sight’ to write for their series on ’CONNECTIONS - What cannot be done alone’ (#30 July 2012). After reflecting on the work I had done at Mozilla, and the deep changes I was observing in the world at large in terms of online participation I penned the article ‘Generation next: Wants to do something, not Be something.’
Since then more and more examples are emerging, to name but a few: Harvard, MIT and Stanford are opening up more online courses, 10 million students have learned from the Khan Academy, making them the largest school in the world, and neuroscience is benefitting from people gaming at the Eyewire project, whilst a the same time mapping neurons in the human retina.
We are entering the age of participation where people will expect to take part, to connect, learn, collaborate and be heard. The true power of the Internet is truly coming of age.
Here’s the full transcript of my article in the July edition of SecondSight:
Generation NEXT: wants to DO something, not BE something
The Web has come full circle. From creator to consumer to socially connected consumer to socially connected creator. The next Web horizon is dawning.
Initially, the Web was all about creation. Mainly consisting of academics, tinkerers, and the early open source movement, these newly minted pioneers, created the first websites, started public discussion forums, and added web content and software that grew vast interconnected networks of data and information. They knew how to build web pages, collaborate online and could publish material freely. We have them to thank for the realization of the World Wide Web to distribute, connect and democratize information. Circa 1998 the digital revolution was in full swing. Web creation had exploded, only now in the form of people creating companies fueled by the dot com boom and the possibility of financial success.
The Dark Ages
As the Web became more and more popular, a fundamental shift occurred from digital creation to online consumption. People were encouraged to click, to view content, and buy products. For example, take the early success of Yahoo!, then a web directory that allowed one to consume information through clicking around. And with the prosperity of companies such as eBay, Amazon and Google, the number of individual web makers quickly declined. Web creation fell into the dark ages. People were so overwhelmed by their experience that there was no need to create for themselves. Soon they forgot the Web was a public resource for all, and that they too could contribute to its success.
The Birth of Social
Enter the birth of social with the advent of Facebook in 2005. These platforms whilst enabling powerful connection and conversation have become the latest mass consumption activity. According to Comscore in October 2011 1.2 billion Internet users around the world visited social networking sites, accounting for 82 percent of the world’s online population. In short, nearly 1 in every 5 minutes spent online is now spent social networking. Sadly, many of us are using Facebook and other such networks not to create and nurture relationships, to debate and discuss, but rather to project a decorated story of ourselves on our wall. “Our online communities become engines of self-image,” Marche in The Atlantic writes, “and self-image becomes the engine of community.”
Social in its current form epitomizes a generation who has only been concerned with trying to be something, rather than trying to do or make something.
The Emergence of DO
That said, the Web is changing, and through the role of the Internet so is the World. Use of social media is beginning to evolve, education on how to use the Web is increasing at an advancing rate, and tools are emerging which allow easy participation in some way. Today more people are aware and concerned about their data and privacy online, particularly in Europe. And perhaps more importantly, people have realized social media can give them a powerful voice. From the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 led via social media, to the massive online SOPA and PIPA petitions against Internet censorship legislation earlier this year, the Web is being utilized to unite a single voice. The medium of social expression hasn’t changed, however, more people are realizing the power they can yield through its existence.
Recent BBC research also indicates the number of people participating online is significantly higher, claiming this signals the death of the 1% rule (The 1% rule: in any given online community only 1% will create content, 9% will edit or modify that content and the rest will consume the content without contributing). The increase is being driven by the rise of “easy participation” that makes it effortless to share or post comments, and upload photos etc. There are many arguments around the quality of this type of participation, and its worth as contribution to the Web. Personally, I think its a great step forward (no matter the content) in reducing the barriers to mass involvement on the Web. Social in that sense is a great equalizer, it has become the gateway to deeper online participation.
And, there are a growing number of people already on a stronger Web participation journey. This growing community fundamentally understands the Web’s potential and are acquiring their own skills to remix and create a Web they want to see. Organizations such as the Code Academy and MIT Opencourseware, are making it easy to learn how to build, mash up and change any web page. Mozilla’s Hackasaurus program does the same with youth via kid-friendly tools, online games, and earned achievements.
Every day thousands of pieces of code are being checked into open code repositories such as GitHub, in which anyone is freely able to take the code, remix it and make into the next big thing. As an open innovation movement emerges alongside a growing community of skilled Web participants, it’s clear more companies should begin to take note. They have a great opportunity to harness the power of the social Web, and the potential of this next generation of Web makers, or risk being left behind. Participation driven projects such as Firefox and Linux were once the poster children for open source, now more hybrids between open collaboration and commerce coexist. From motivating fans to participate in word of mouth marketing, to encouraging users to participate in the creation of their products, organizations can greatly benefit from being open. And, more users will demand this in the no too distant future.
So, its clear the Web has become critical to our existence. So much so, studying, coding and remixing the Web is now being taught in our schools and homes. Children in their young teens are learning how to build Web apps, film and promote videos, write and share their opinions via blog posts. In the next five years we will see a societal change with active co-creators, shaping their environments, and tinkering with technology rather than only consuming it.
This new phase of the social Web will be less about self-promotion, and more about building and sharing those creations with the world. Those companies who will succeed in this new world order are those who allow this new generation of makers to contribute: to co-design products, to check in code, to test, to remix, to market, to share. As a result the Web, and the World will be stronger.