We All Want A Community

3 Comments 12 July 2013

Creative Commons License, Pink Sherbert Photography

Creative Commons License, Pink Sherbert Photography

My friend recently moved to Tuscon from Texas, and she doesn’t have a car. What she does have is Reddit. Through Reddit, she’s found a community of sorts in Tuscon, friends that will drive across town to pick her up and take her out with them and explore the town. In fact, Reddit has been her “in” to this new community both offline and online.

Ken Gordon, social media manager at Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE), launched a Facebook “lab” for Jewish educators who are passionate about redesigning Jewish education a few months ago. He created the JEDLAB Facebook Group, and within days it had over 200 members. Today the group boasts over 1700 members, at least three member posts a day, and a highly active commenting community. Ken spends a good deal of time supporting the group’s development as a community, which has paid off in spades. These Jewish educators have found their community of practice and thinking. This isn’t about PEJE, it’s about education.

A summer camp I work with launched a parents’ group for parents of campers this summer. The group has become the support community for the parents who initially asked questions about what to bring to camp and of late want to know more about what’s going on at camp. When one parent complained about an issue, other experienced camp parents stepped in to reassure and support the parent. It’s a community. Notably, it’s not about the brand of the camp, it’s about the stakeholders.

We all want community: we identify ourselves by our hobbies, race, gender, sexual orientation, hometown, hometown sports teams, jobs, careers, and so much more. Think Google Plus communities, Facebook Groups, Ravelry (a knitting social network) or Yahoo Groups, to name a few. Many sub-reddits (groups based on commonalities within the Reddit social network) become incredibly tight communities. Just read this article to see how one online community came together to raise money. Listservs for towns and new moms are lifelines for those seeking such community. How can the promise of community translate into your organization’s social media strategy?

The question I always ask clients is: what conversation do your stakeholders want to have? It’s probably not about your organization. It’s probably not about a brand or a fundraising campaign, either. It’s always about solving a need or sharing a need. Your organization solicits volunteers for the public schools? Then the conversation is about the public schools. Your organizations offer high-tech software to other organizations? The conversation is about technology.

Stop controlling the conversation through only the branded social media business page. It’s hard to bring people together when you are talking about yourself. Step back, and ask: what community could you create?

It’s what everyone wants.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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