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December 06, 2007
The 4 types of community
You're thinking about creating or extending your customer or member community because it's central to increased word of mouth and evangelism, but community is a broad term.
What type of community, exactly, do you want to create? Here's four ways to think about it.
Your community could be small, like a clique. Its value is that members know another, look like one another, dress like one another. (To some, that could be its horror.) But a clique enjoys trendsetting and tweaking the noses of convention, just like fashion. Comfort comes from the raft of differentiation on an ocean of familiarity. The value of a clique is dependent upon its exclusivity, but its devotion can be fickle, just like in high school. Like: A Small World.
Your community could be big and resemble a distribution system, like a network. Members pass along data or connections to one another like a fire brigade. Your goal is to catch the tailwinds of the network effect, whereby the value of the community is proportional to the increasing size of its membership. The network can be big, but there's little to no emotional tax for decoupling. Like LinkedIn.
Your community could be of medium size and resemble a cult. Its value is a strong belief system not fulfilled through mainstream channels. A charismatic leader has codified the belief system into rituals that people love and believe in. It may not be huge, but its devotion meter is off the scale. Like: Maker's Mark Ambassadors.
Your community could resemble a nation. The community owns its destiny. Their destiny is yours. The driving force is egalitarianism; everyone is on equal footing, with a few representatives minding the points of direction. The sense of pride, even sovereignty, is palpable. As is the devotion, which many would view as a mythological life-and-death struggle. Like: Netroots Nation.
No matter its type, your community is influenced by the forces of growth and devotion. It's hard to inspire growth, but easy to measure it and control it.
It's difficult to measure the invisible cement of devotion. But as the Facebook Beacon program has shown, it's easy to undermine it.
(Thanks to Ray Bard for the four quadrants graph.)
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interesting article. thanks for posting.
I like the thoughts behind this, but I think I'd label it differently. The words "clique" and "cult" have a negative connotation so looking at the chart it almost implies that a small sized community isn't good, or at least less desirable than something larger despite the devotion.
Additionally, I probably would spin it differently by making the x-axis "ownership" instead.
Small groups can change the world. Movements start with leadership ownership and small, but as more join the movement, there is increase in ownership and size...but that group can still be small. The more ownership among it's members, however, the more effective it can be.
As I said last week at the Pow Wow, I was definitely looking forward to this post. I think the concept and connection of these two factors is very interesting.
While from a literary perspective I love the elegance of two of the areas starting with a C and two with a N, I agree with Rob, that there may be baggage for the worlds clique and cult.
From a marketing perspective those may well be what I am trying/hoping to create and that can be a very positive thing for all involved!
Of course, those in a cult or clique typically don't see the negative aspects that those on the "outside" see . . .
I didn't post for a day or so, thinking I might come up with some alternate words. I will conintue to think, and if/when I come up with anything, I'll be back!
Thanks again for a great post - and for some great time together in Chicago last week.
author of Remarkable Leadership - http://remarkableleadershipbook.com
Hey, it's Rob again. I've been thinking about this chart more and I think I finally can put my finger on what it is that's bugging me about it. Don't get me wrong, I love these attempts to synthesize ideas.
But with this, the community you call 'clique' is bugging me. And I just realized, it's not the word 'clique' so much as it is that I'm not sure I'd call that group a community at all. A small group of people who aren't very devoted to much I'd call a group, not a community. I think a community is a group with a purpose. So a network works because of it's size. There's enough 'critical mass' to make it a community.
So maybe, what if you keep the two at the top 'network' and 'nation', then change cult to 'niche' to keep with the alliteration. But the clique, I'd call it a group (or 'nothing' ;-) Or 'nomads'. Ha! it's a small group of people not caring much so they aren't well connected.
Anyway, thanks for allowing the discussion.
The interesting question here is?
Is the sweet spot the upper right hand corner and is that where we want to tend towards?
This is a very interesting 'Magic Quadrant".
Hey Ben -- Thanks for the cap tip to the Maker's Mark Ambassadors program. My agency handles Maker's and I'm involved with the brand. Aside from that, an excellent post that I will share with some folks. I LOVE the graphic (thanks Ray) and think it makes a nice addition to presentations from agencies who try to build brand enthusiasts (cults or nations). Kudos!
This is truely a great post
Thaks for this real good information!!
As groups grow, devotion wanes and brands get diluted. If you are an established brand how do you continue to grow in size while maintaining high devotion? And If you are an upstart brand how do you retain devotion while growing in size?
For me the answer lies in creating cults within networks and cliques within nations. Think small in order to grow big. More on my thoughts at http://afternow.wordpress.com/