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. self-policing. 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

    Examples: Digg craigslist, Amazon

  2. Collaborative information structures

    Flickr etc

  3. High end collaboration - groups using systems to organise data etc.

    wikipedia Lostpedia 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

Membership influence integration 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

Physiological Security/safety social self-esteem self-actualisation


Shared emotional connection

relationships frequent intervals ...

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

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