The fallacy of community

This is a guest post from Spike Jones — Group Director of Engagement at WCG and co-author of the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word of Mouth Movements. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

Let’s talk about community for a moment, shall we?

Mr. RogersRemember when that word actually meant something? Remember when we lived in places that weren’t only called communities, but actually FELT like a community? We talked and interacted with people around us purely because we occupied space near one another. Remember?

Then people started building places online where others came together to commune and talk about shared passions. And they called them “online communities.” It made sense, because people sought these online worlds out and were there to actively participate.

But then something changed. And that word — community — started to become construed. Anybody who threw up a blog and a message board starting claiming to have a “community” because they got more than two people visiting their site on a daily basis – even if those people didn’t ever interact with one another.

Listen very carefully: there is a big difference between being a neighbor and being neighborly.

I can live next to someone for years in the same community and never talk to them, learn their name, or even give a rip about their life or interests. They are my neighbor. We are in the same community.

Yet, the way I just used those words doesn’t convey what these social media kids want you to think when you hear them. Just because a bunch of people are in the same place (online or off) doesn’t mean you have a community. Community has context. Community has meaning. Community has deep, meaningful interactions. Now, concerning the depth of those interactions and where that line is when it becomes a community can be debated.

But you get my point.

You can’t create a community — because you can’t build people.

You can only construct the buildings. Community isn’t apps and tweets and status updates. Community is shared passion. Community comes from the heart and soul and sweat and blood and love inside people. And they decide where and when and how it happens. Not you or your website or your program.

About Spike Jones

Spike Jones is a results-proven communications professional, specializing in digital and offline word of mouth marketing. With more than 15 years of experience, the career path goes something like this: Baylor University; a decade at Brains on Fire; SVP of the Customer Experience team at Fleishman-Hillard; Group Director, Engagement at WCG; and now SVP, Managing Director SW Region at Edelman Digital. Spike is also a co-author of the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements.

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Comments

  1. Bobby Burns

    I loved this post! And I would extend this same thinking to “brick and mortar” efforts, i.e. town or city governments that strive to “create community” in their cities where no real community exists.

    It jars me to see big signs and banners proclaiming “Build Community” next to a park or recreation center. The idea being that if we simply say it, it will happen.

    Community is an organic thing and not a construct.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. This Week in Small Business: Small Data - NYTimes.com - May 13, 2013

    [...] dry, and Chris Brogan wonders if local businesses deserve your money. Spike Jones says you can’t create a community because “you can’t build [...]

  2. This Week in Small Business: Small Data – New York Times (blog) – business news online | Fonte English - May 13, 2013

    [...] and Chris Brogan wonders if topical businesses deserve your money. Spike designer says you can’t create a community because “you can’t physique [...]

  3. This Week in Small Business: Small Data – New York Times (blog) – business news online - May 13, 2013

    [...] and Chris Brogan wonders if topical businesses deserve your money. Spike designer says you can’t create a community because “you can’t physique [...]

  4. You're the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Small Data | Experts Bto - May 13, 2013

    [...] dry, and Chris Brogan wonders if local businesses deserve your money. Spike Jones says you can’t create a community because “you can’t build [...]

  5. This Week in Small Business: Small Data | Experts Bto - May 13, 2013

    [...] dry, and Chris Brogan wonders if local businesses deserve your money. Spike Jones says you can’t create a community because “you can’t build [...]

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