FOWA Notes: Fostering online communities - Tara hunt


  1. What makes a community
  2. Example of communities
  3. Common community themes
  4. Setting fertile ground for the growth of your community

Characteristics of a virtual community
Personal homepage
Personal content creation
Ability to interact with other's content
ability to friend and share content

Visitors don't make a community.
A visitor might be a customer, PPC, conversion rates etc.

Vistor -> customer -> community member

How do we go from being a customer to a community member.

Benefits of community

heightened customer loyalty - emotional lock-in -this is where your friends are.
Amplified word of mouth
better feedback - users want to see you grow.
stronger and more interesting filters

Examples of communities.

Park from the silicon valley ahve been doing some studies

Different levels of community:

  1. Light weight social process
    voting + recording of info

Digg craigslist, Amazon

  1. Collaborative information structures
    Flickr etc

  2. High end collaboration - groups using systems to organise data etc.
    O/S project like linux

a wiki of Lost related information. A major undertaking.

Common Community Themes

Flickr - photo sharing community
Q: "Who hasn't heard of Flickr?"
A: no-one

Twitter - sms community

Wordpress - developer community

Threadless - art-based apparel community

Some common themes
Sense of fun/play
Keeping the dialogue going
wouldn't it be awesome if
The power of word of mouth
Involving community in decisions.
simple platforms to build on
Compelling stories

Sense of Fun
Evan Williams - Twitter, just wanted to have a much fun as possible.

PLayful messaging on the site - eg Twitter's 404
Flickr's error messages
Wordpress' hello dolly plugin + posting error messages

Keeping the dialogue going
Personal use of the product. I know lots of people who don't use their own products.
Involved personally in customer support - many hire people and become separated from their products.
Matt Mullenwegg - made a point of saying he answer as many support emails a possible.

Flickr: The team spent lots of time greeting every user...
... If you go to a party and you don't know anyone you'll leave.

Wouldn't it be awesome if?

Take an experimental approach to development.

Threadless - every thing we do starts with the phrase "wouldn't it be awesome if?"

Barcamp - Everyone was complaing that they didn't get invited to foocamp. But we thought wouldn't it be awesome if we had our own.

Throw away the business plan.
Stewart Flikr: We started an online game and Flickr was just a side-project.

Google: The Googley Approach to Business. It's a ploace where failure co-exists with success... ... Engineers don't worry about products that make money.

The power of word of mouth

Built in ways to share early on, blog rSS etc e.g. Flickr

Participants are media creators, podcastin, lbogging - Barcamp

Instead of adding more features, added more on-ramps: jabber, email sms e.g. Twitter

Involving community in decisions.
Listen to your users: e.g. Flickr
Let the community create the content and make the decisions e.g. Threadless.
Put the audience in charge - barcamp

simple platforms to build on
Google maps vs yahoo maps
51% google vs 4% Y!
Google simplicity is better.
Building blocks by Tantek Celik
tools resources or techniques
Built by experts

Make your platform simple and extensible - wordpress
simple API flickr
Keep it simple and open barcamp
focuse on open fucntion well - twitter
Keep it to the torso

Compelling stories
Twitter the birth of the obvious
Flickr GNE to photosharing
Wordpress Matt the wonder kid
Threadless and Jake and Jake loved art
Barcamp - 6 days no resources

Community rewards:
Flickr fre pro accounts
twitter - featured members
Wordpress featured devloeprs
threadless shares revenue with desingers
Barcamp - more privileges

What keeps people logging in...
Quote John Coate innkeeping

Sense of community
Shared emotional content

Feelings of membership:

Do I belong here?

includes personal profiles etc. defining groups within groups.
allow for personale and group expression

Greet new members

Being able to influence
Being influenced by groups


Forums chat comments blogging personalised mail

create many ways people can express themselves to one another.

feeling of being supported by others
rewards, status expertise
shared values
feeling of competence within group.

Maslow's hierachy of needs


Shared emotional connection
frequent intervals

Most of all you've got to be patient with this stuff?

Fostering healthy communities is complicated time consuming and requires dedication...

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