I just finished reading an interesting book E-Commerce Management written by Sandeep Krishnamurthy. Recently I’m doing a research to find out insights about online communities and I found a lot of points about online community building in the 11th chapter of the book.
What is online community
“An online community is defined as a gathering of individuals in a computer Mediated environment who are united by a common purpose and governed by self determined policies”.
Expert sayings in community
Putting up message boards and chat rooms is a step towards community, but online community does not automatically happen just by throwing the tools at people. It requires thought. ( Howard Rheingold)
There’s a breakdown between what’s being hyped and what actually hapeening at these sites is: Few of the members actually seem to be communicating with one another. Most people, it seems, just want a place to slap up a picture of their cart. (Janelle Brown)
But most importantly when it done correctly, online communities lead to unbelievable loyalty, great commitment and deep sense of kinship.
Example – More than 10,000 volunteers spend over 4 hours a week working for AOL. Their activities include monitoring chat rooms, hosting bulletin board discussions, helping kids with homework, offering technical advice. In return, the volunteers get a free America online account and access to special online community leader forum.
What is a community – Every community has five features
1 – Purpose – Every community has a mission that attracts its members
2 – Boundary – Every community must clearly define its boundry. Members must know what is relevant and what is irrelevant. The communities must/ may have an FAQ section that answers these type of questions for the novice users.
3- Mutuality – A community is comprised of members who have an interest in its purpose. A high level of shared interest leads to a win-win attitude instead of a competitive attitude, leading to cohesion and bonding.
4 – Rules – Each community must define and communicate the rules of engagement to perspective and current members. Eg- Metafilter does not permit new members to post until they become a trusted member.
5 – Self Organization – Over time, a community must become self-sufficient, with key roles being played by volunteers. Communities initially required more external management and control. Over time, the community becomes self organizing
Five A’s of Online community
1 – Aspatial
2 – Asynchronous
3 – Acoporal
4 – Astimatic
5 – Anonymous
These five A’s create an environment where there is more communication and more content.
The relationship between companies and communities progress through three stages. Denila, monitoring, and collaboration.
Building a successful community
Based on Price Waterhouse Cooper building a successful brand community called the “community hexagon”. The central construct in the framework is an individual’s sense of blonging to the community. In their framework, the company can enhance an individual’s sense of belonging by providing the benefits of participation, precisely tailored content, greater brand identification, an opportunity to shape the development of the web site, an awareness of other like-minded users, and the ability to interact with others on the website.
Amy Jo Kim – Community expert proposed the following steps to build an online community.
Step one– Define and articulate your PURPOSE – Communities come to life when they fulfill an ongoing need in peopl’s life. In future our focus could be “ Making peoples favourite web site those who like travel”
Step Two – Build Flexible, extensible gathering PLACES –Wherever people gather together for a shared purpose, and start talking amongst themselves, a community can begin to take root.
Step Three – Creating meaningful and evolving member PROFILES – You can get to know your members- and help them get to know each other, by developing robust, evolving and up do date member profiles. If handled with integrity ,these profiles can help you build trust., foster relationships and deliver personalized services- while infusing your community with a sense of history and context.
Step Four – Design for a range of ROLES – Addressing the needs of newcomers without alienating the regulars is an ongoing balancing act. As your community grows, it will become increasingly important to provide guidance to new comers- while offering leadership, ownership and commerce opportunities to more experienced members.
Step Five –Develop a strong LEADERSHIP program. – Community leaders are fuel in your engine. They greet visitors, encourage newbie’s, answer questions and deal with trouble makers before they destroy the fun for everyone else. An effective program requires careful planning and ongoing management, but the results can be well worth the investment.
Step Six- Encourage appropriate ETIQUETTE – Every community has its share of internal squabbling. If handled well, conflict can be invigorating- but disagreements often spin out of control and tear a community apart. To avoid this, its crucial to develop some ground rules for participation and set up systems that allow you to enforce and evolve your community standards.
Step Seven – Promote cyclic EVENTS – To develop a loyal following, and foster relationships among your members, you’ll want to establish regular online events and help your members develop and run their own event.
Step Eight – Integrate the RUTUALS of community life – All communities use rituals to acknowledge their members, and celebrate important social transactions. By celebrating holiday marking seasonal changes, and integrating personal transitions and rites of passage, you’ll be layinh the foundation for a true online culture.
Step Nine- Facilitate member-run SUBGROUPS – If your goal is to grow a large scale community, you’ll want to provide enabling technologies to help your members create and run subgroups. Its substantial undertaking – but this powerful feature can drive lasting member loyalty and help to distinguish you community from its competition.