Thursday, December 18, 2008

Does X mark the spot for community?

Richard Millington has a nice overview of what it takes to build an online community. He concisely states what I've discussed in my presentations on blogging and social media. That being said, I now wonder if there's not a better question for all of us to be answering. Specifically, are destination communities relevant? Is there some magical place where we all need to find? Or rather, will a more distributed community model take root?

While I tend to agree with what is said in finding your first community members (or even how to build a user community), I look at this more from the perspective of tapping into the community that already exists. Do we need to bring them back to one central place? A few years ago, I would have said yes in a heartbeat but I am no longer sure that is the case today.

Thinking about my own communities, I engage with others through a variety of different experiences. Email, Twitter, and Facebook are just some online examples. Other examples include phone calls, drinks at a local bar, coffee at a local Starbucks, or purposeful gatherings (for work and/or fun). To build a destination site for one of my communities, well...I'm not sure that would be relevant. Sure, it can be valuable in things like asynchronous communication, outreach, education and the like. Archival, nostalgia and reconnecting are some other scenarios that could also work. But to have one place for the community seems rather limiting, and in my opinion, misses out on how communities work.

Related, I wonder if this is why we are seeing broader community initiatives such as what Nike does with their running clubs, Nike+ website, and Niketown?

Maybe that's really it then...destination communities unto themselves have their place, but really do not speak to the full complexity and needs of communities as a whole. Thoughts?

photo credit -- kierkier

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