How the Dunbar Number affects community, and other happenings from the world of community this week.
Community Chat Weekly is a newsletter about building and growing communities, featuring collected tweets, posts and thoughts from various community managers.
What characteristics make a market, a theme, or an industry attractive to build a community around? What is the community 'primordial soup'?
Reply with your thoughts on the QOTW for a chance to be featured in next week's email!
Last week's question was “What KPI/data point you wish you had the ability to track in your community”, and here were some of our favorite replies:
Chris Hemedinger from the SAS Community:
Many of our members receive community updates via e-mail (subscriptions to boards/topics). E-mail opens don't count as visits/views. Wish we had more visibility into the e-mail aspect of consuming content.
Mary Thenvgall, Director of Dev Relations at Camunda:
I’d love to track community happiness. Not just when they’re polled as a part of a survey, but in general. In an ideal world, this would be collected via engagement metrics as well as contributions and the general information we have about what they think about our product and community as a whole.
Another week, another community framework.
Ever heard of the Dunbar number? It was coined by Robin Dunbar, a renowned anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist. After studying correlations between the sizes of ancient human tribes and the brain's neocortex region, he discovered that there is an approximate limit to how many meaningful relationships a human being can realistically have.
The Dunbar number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person.
The implications for communities are obvious – how many communities can one person realistically meaningfully contribute and participate in? And is time the big constraining factor, or is there a true, cognitive relationship-building limit at play?
Let's look at some data. The average Facebook user has 338 “Friends." The average Twitter user still has 453 followers (even after adjusting for outlier influencers like Kim Kardashian). And in more intimate "closed" communities on platforms like Slack, the average community has 1,588 members, as seen in this data set of 1,700 Slack communities. And according to this highly scientific Slack-emoji poll, the average number of Slack groups a person can realistically be active in is three to four.
Poll from Justin Jackson's MegaMaker community on Slack.
Added together, a persons entire digital network becomes staggeringly large. Does digital community increase our capacity to make and maintain relationships, and increase the threshold for the Dunbar number? The jury is still out. But community managers should keep these limits and heuristics in mind when designing their communities and optimizing for member engagement.
Read more about Dunbar’s Number here.
Community managers, you are not alone.
Chicken and egg. Content and community. Which comes first?
People don't want to be sold to. Build a community, earn trust, and create value first.
The human touch is what makes community so special.
A handful of recommended readings from the past week.
1,000 True Fans? Try 100 true fans (4 min read)
In 2008, acclaimed WIRED editor Kevin Kelly wrote that creators only needed to earn "1,000 True Fans" to make a living. Li Jin, partner at Andreesen Horowitz with a focus on community and creators, proposes an alternative idea.
The Era of Anti-social Media (3 min read)
The Harvard Business Review explores how the GenZ and Millennial generations are shifting from centralized social media platforms towards private communities and closed-messaging platforms.
Celebs ditching Twitter for new community app (2 min read)
For decades, stars have been an important part of the social media ecosystem. Now they are retreating to private communities. Will the internet ever be the same?