Some thoughts on communities in 2015

Because of the Independence Day holiday (and a healthy downtime break between parade and fireworks), I found myself with a free hour to head down a rabbit hole on historical trauma associated with holidays like this one.

In the era of Facebook, it’s really interesting to think about how commonly held beliefs would have been spread/upheld/challenged/disrupted in niche communities informed primarily via IRL conversations (and maybe printed paper pamphlets) back in the days of our forefathers.

It’s also compelling to think about how our traditional publications and social networks have shifted to primarily advertising vehicles, despite the fact they were built/formed by people seeking community.

The role of communities in social media is getting lost, in my experience. With algorithm shifts, monetization and the firehose of content growing exponentially each day, there’s entirely too much focus on content marketing in the big, legacy social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).

Marketers are losing sight of the opportunity to build and engage with communities as we did in the early days. Not for the sake of monetizing, but for the opportunity to form a 2-way relationship with your true fans, friends and followers. To add value. To learn. And to change based on the conversation.

I thought this quote from a post on Creating A Common Memory (Doctrine of Discovery) that was prescient to this insight…

Georges Erasmus, an Aboriginal leader from Canada, said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”

The innate desire for humans to form communities is indefatigable. Because the legacy social networks may no longer the primary way to build and foster communities, brands must continuing exploring the roles of message boards (a classic!), niche groups, comments/reviews and link sharing portals.

Much of this community conversation isn’t public, just like the good old days. But that’s all the more reason for brands to get smart about how they are monitoring and engaging in a dialog with their stakeholders.

Scott Cook at Intuit once said, “A brand is not what we tell consumers it is; it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

Therefore, brands must continue to seek out, build and engage with communities beyond the Big Three in social media.

Like I said, it’s a bit of a rabbit hole and is definitely outside the realm of historical trauma that impacts lifespans and generations, but it’s also my believe that brand advocacy, reputation and buying habits are transgenerational.

And these notions are formed/reinforced/changed in communities.

Therefore, we must continue to prioritize communities in all that we do. Even if we can’t serve those people advertising or measure their tie to sales.