Let me start by saying that I just created the absolute worst title to a blog post in the history of man. I mean, that’s incredibly un-enticing, right? Who the hell wants to read about something like “building an online community”? Honestly if it was me, I would’ve passed this post right by with an emphatic “Nah.” But here we are, and here you are you unlucky bastard.
This week we talked to Rachael Brown, who’s site Haute Happenings (and Facebook Page) is a resource for people in Terre Haute to find family-friendly activities. Rachael came to talk to us about how to both manage and engage with a community as a corner stone of your business or project. Now, while my long term plans don’t necessarily involve building an online community, the traits to building one are applicable to building relationships in general. There’s an intrinsic balance when dealing with your own community and that’s when to let them drive the conversation themselves and when to take control and refocus the topic. Rachael explained to us the difficulty when dealing with politics on her Facebook page. A simple article that was meant to discuss the city inevitably brought anger by her followers because of its political nature.
Are topics like politics and religion completely off limits? Can a community of like-minded adults not even discuss these topics without getting upset and losing their cool? The short answer is no, but the long answer is…also no. It just doesn’t work. So it’s important to retain enough control over your community before it spirals out of control and you lose the original focus.
Community can present itself in different forms however and just like Rachael’s online community is built in such a way that real world interaction is more than plausible, but almost encouraged. It seems this could potentially be the next step in building a community and one that most users already utilize. Rachael highlights events in Terre Haute with the intention that, obviously, residents will attend. In this way her community can interact with each other online and in the real world through a mutual experience. No Mean City, a site dedicated to highlighting the best parts of Indianapolis, is another example. The site hopes that interaction can take place offline as well as through a greater community on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
So the future of online community could actually be a 180 where users connect online and find ways to connect in the real world. Like I said last week, finding others with your same interests in close proximity to you can be difficult but with access to the entire world online, you can find your more-or-less twin in a matter of minutes.
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