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Cover image for The Self Fulfilling Prophecy of Not Investing in Community

The Self Fulfilling Prophecy of Not Investing in Community

mac profile image Mac ・1 min read

Invest in community. The end.


Ok it's not quite that simple, but not investing in community creates the very situation where a lack of investment becomes 'justified'.

When organizations fail to invest time and resources into community, it creates an environment in which community isn't fully understood. When community isn't fully understood, its difficult (or even impossible) to measure it. Without measurement, its impossible to grasp the impact that community can have on the organization. And then right back to the start, where organizations don't make the necessary investment because they can't see the impact of community.

And thus we're left with a self-fulfilling prophecy for not investing in community. For many companies, a thriving community can and will be their single greatest asset, but it takes time to nurture and grow a community to the point of being able to understand this in pure numbers.


For many companies, community can also be a bit of a prisoner's dilemma. Take two companies, with relatively equal products and pricing, but one has a thriving community of fans and support around it. Which are you more likely to pick when making a purchase choice?

For those of you looking to convince your CEO's, CMO's and other executive leadership to invest in community, I've found it incredibly helpful to present as a cycle that must be broken before the benefits can come.

Break the cycle, invest in community. Or your competitors will, and you won't realize your mistake until its too late.

Discussion

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chadneufeld profile image
Chad Neufeld

Great thoughts. Curious to know how you think community is different/similar/the same as other communication channels that organizations have adopted in the past (or have refused to adopt), like Twitter, chat, websites, direct mail, carrier pigeons, etc.

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mac profile image
Mac Author

Community is super broad, and there's always going to be debates on communication vs community vs audience. Unlike past communication channels though, community has the power to be exponentially more powerful due to the power of building many-to-many connections.

It's no longer about communicating to your customers, but with them, and that's where community stands far above other channels.

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chadneufeld profile image
Chad Neufeld

Toooootally on the same page there. I am curious whether adoption for community is going to follow a similar pattern to other channels. The folks hanging out here are all converts and have consumed the kool-aid, but I think we can all acknowledge that the market is still not where we all expect it should be. I'm curious about whether there are relevant historic adoption patterns that we can all learn from.

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mac profile image
Mac Author

Oh 100%. That's what communityled.com/ is for, convincing the broader market.

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alourie profile image
Alex Lourie

Some companies/organisations regard Twitter/Chat/Websites/whatever as a one-way street - literally as a simple outgoing tool in their marketing arsenal.

But what Mac implying here is actually a much more involved interaction with the "community" - that is, absolutely bilateral communication with people you interact with. Listening to your customers, and talking to them, creating events and answering Q&As, having forums/knowledge bases with answers to most common questions, and yes, support areas to answer customer/user complaints. And it's also supporting the "community" to interact with itself, that is providing a fertile environment for people to have common experiences that link back to you.

That's what many-to-many connections bring, and that's the reason that organisations with best communities win.

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chadneufeld profile image
Chad Neufeld

100% agree on all of that, I'm interested in adoption (my original post wasn't that clear 😔, my bad) of community. My day job involves convincing companies of exactly what you and Mac have outlined above, and although there is a ton of interest, it's still quite an uphill battle to move community forward in large orgs.

I am really interested in how tools used across departments have won adoption in the past and what the community industry can learn from those examples.

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alourie profile image
Alex Lourie

I wonder what the battle would be about. Is it about an effort that's required for the two-way communication handling or is it a generic model of "what is it that we should be doing"?

As for "tools" - I think that tools that allow micro-communities to emerge (read: a team, then a department, then maybe customers, etc, ending up in a whole community sprawling up) do have a low barrier of entry and a high chance of sticking around (examples: slack, zoom, git/github/gitlab, etc). All these present a very simple opportunity for a small group to start utilising them without having to overcome a big corporate strategy pushback and developing their own "community norms".

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katrine_129 profile image
Katrine

This is SO true. When there is a lack of understanding, there's a lack of investment. People are afraid of the things they don't understand, even if deep down they know it's important and plays a crucial role. Community is a "black box" to many executive and leadership teams because they can't slap an ROI number on it, and therefore, won't invest further.

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yenftw profile image
John @ YEN

if you don't, your competitors will...

... and then you lose... out.

i don't see this as a zero-sum game, though... but, if you're not investing in community then you're doing it at your own risk.

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iamcesarromero profile image
cesar

100% agree with this. So what would you recommend to someone looking to convince solopreneurs, startups, and small businesses that they should invest in community? Is it as simple as a quick presentation to drive the point on how community can impact the business goals?

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mac profile image
Mac Author

Working on a follow up article to tackle exactly this question!