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Building Online Communities – Tara Hunt (Citizen Agency)

February 20, 2007

Building Online Communities

Tara Hunt (Citizen Agency)
Notes from The Future of Web Apps conference, London, 2007

Common themes and approaches in successful online communities

Common themes and approaches in successful online communities

  • Keeping the dialogue going
  • Personal use – eat your own dog food
  • Involved personally in customer support (see craigslist)
    • Flickr greeted each new user
  • if you don’t know anybody at a party then you leave.” – Christine.net

  • Experimental approach
    • ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if…’
    • Flickr started as a game, with the photo sharing as a side product
  • The Power of Word of Mouth
    • Build-in ways to share – blog, rss, cut and paste URLs
    • Participants are media creators – blog, irc, wiki etc [threadless.com]
    • Instead of adding more features, add more ‘on-ramps’
    • Sms, email, jabber, web-based
    • Involve community in decisions
  • Listen and be flexible
    • Let them create content
    • Put the audience in charge [see barcamp.com]
  • Simple platforms to build on
    • Google maps vs Yahoo maps (55% of mashups on programmableweb vs 5%)
    • Create building blocks – tools, resources, techniques
    • Extendable – eg wordpresso
    • API – eg flickro
    • One function – twitter
  • Community rewards
    • Flickr: free pro accounts, anniversary parties, schwag
    • Twitter: featured members, blogging
    • Threadless: share the revenue
    • Barcamp: give more privileges to the leaders

Setting fertile ground for your own community

Motivation [John Coate quote] – “A benefit that makes a difference to their lives”

Create a sense of community:

  1. Feeling of membership
    • Creation of boundaries
    • Emotional safety
    • Eg Personal profile pages, ‘friending’, defining groups, invites
    • Personal and group self expression
    • [Seeing a lot of audience verticals eg mayasmom.com]
    • Greet new members, like flickr
  2. Feeling of influence
    • Voice heard
    • Learning
    • Feedback responsiveness
    • Rule enforcement
    • Forum, chat, comments, blogging, email
    • Platform for expression
  3. Integration and fulfilment of needs
    • Support from others
    • Status, expertise
    • Shared values
    • Feeling of competence
  4. Hierarchy of needs (Maslow)
    • Physiological
    • Security / safety
    • Social
    • Self-esteem / ego
    • Self-actualisation
    • Eg Karma points, featured members, status rewards
  • Users should form a shared emotional connection
    • Discrete / shared events / history / crisis
    • Offline needs

Above all else when building a community you need patience

3 Comments
  1. February 28, 2007 8:21 pm

    Paul, in part the Times is right in choosing to describe the scramble as competition, since I shall only need one OpenID provider. Ultimately, winning customers to your OpenID service should be far stickier than many other types of offering on the web. Microsoft saw this long ago with their passport service but lost out, I believe, because many companies were fearful of playing with Microsoft.

    What OpenID providers can do with those customers when they get them is less clear. They will clearly have lots of data about the services that you are using, which they may be able to exploit (worth checking what the T&Cs say).

    I don’t think OpenID providers will have much opportunity to extract “access” charges from services that their customers connect to, as some business models have sought to do. Nor do I think they have any particular advantages in trying to sell their customers other services.

    It’s possible these businesses may be funded by advertising because it’s often the case that you need to be logged into your openid provider when accessing services, or it certainly seems to be the case with Livejournal who have operated OpenId services for some time. Hence, I need to keep going back to the livejournal site.

    But I still wonder what’s the business model.

  2. February 28, 2007 8:27 pm

    It’s a shame Tara did such a lousy talk at Geek Dinner, after having provided a useful mental check list of what contributes to the success of a SCN.

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