By now, countless organizations have learned the painful lesson: “If you build it, they will come,” only
works in the movies. But there’s a related lesson that is a core tenet of community management. How you build it—the shape of the community you create—drives whether the community meets your goals.
The shape of your community will depend entirely on what success looks like for the goals you have, the complexity of those goals and where potential members are comfortable engaging. Generally speaking, the less complex the outcome (information sharing, discovery, awareness) the larger and more diverse your community can and should be— suggesting that the shape of the network is loose, only lightly connected and may cross channels and platforms.
If on the other hand, you are solving complex technical issues or negotiating business terms you will need a much smaller community that is highly interconnected and includes a high level of trust and confidence, which means it is very likely private and exclusive with no explicit links connecting it to a wider network.
Understanding what kind of community and ecosystem structure best fits your needs will help you define an effective community management approach. The more trust you need to execute on your goals, the better the relationship between participants will need to be.
Are you charged with starting an online community? Check out the Community Manager Handbook for more community best practices, strategy ideas and case studies.
Want the chance to contribute to research like the Community Manager Handbook? Members of TheCR Network get exclusive professional development opportunities like this and more! Join us and let us help you grow your career as a community manager.