The Needs of the One

17 Jan

The word community derives from the same root as communal which suggests an undertaking by a group. And, of course, community is fundamentally about the relationships and activities of groups of people. Paradoxically, however, in order to get a community started, you probably need to work with people one on one, and its often useful to do it face to face as well.

A lot of people think that communities will form naturally if you simply throw a bunch of people together who have some sort of attributes in common. For example, it’s not uncommon for associations to think that since their members share a common interest, that simply creating an online community and putting their members in it will result in success.

But for a community to actually succeed, people have to derive value from participating in it. From lurkers all the way through to those who help actively manage a community, each person is has a motivation for being there and for the activities they undertake in the context of the community.

The transition from new community to successful community is a sequence of related tasks:

  • Understanding the potential value that a member could obtain from the community
  • Creating an environment where that value can be realized within the community
  • Ensuring that there is some initial value present in the community
  • Convincing members that there is value in the community
  • Ensuring that members experience the value when they participate in the community

You can’t succeed unless you succeed at each step along the way. The first step requires that you have an understanding of what your members need and want. If you have a rock solid grasp on that, you’re set. If you don’t, then consider “the needs of the one” (or the few). In other words, go talk to one of your members. Get a sense of what he or she faces on a day to day basis. Then talk to another one. Once you’ve got to know a few of your members, hopefully some common themes will start to emerge.

These themes should provide a framework for the types of value that an online community could provide. And with that in hand, you can begin to move through the tasks listed above. It’s likely to be hard work, but the reward of an online community that continuously provides value to your members will be worth it.


3 Responses to “The Needs of the One”

  1. Annie Gallagher January 20, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    I like your holistic approach. I think I would re-title the post to say, “The Needs of One and the Power of Many” because when you think about what a trade association does, it really gets its strength by networking people individually for what they need but the power comes from the group. So whether the power is a stronger voice for advocacy, for a better business, or to make sure that your group cost-benefits are lower, there is power in combining the different perspectives of your group.

    • Terry Coatta January 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      It would definitely be a better title, but it would no longer be a quote from Star Trek 🙂


  1. Online Community Management Links Roundup 20/01/12 - Community Management | Blaise Grimes-Viort - January 20, 2012

    […] The Needs of the One […]

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