Building Communities as the Saying Goes…

As I wrote in the final part of the Roadmap to SCRM series, we are plunging into an era of community participation.

Communities are so much more than the traditional forum-like model.  It is necessary to build good communities to get value and a return on the investment you put into it.

There are plenty of common wisdom sayings we use in our everyday life to guide and explain our actions.  I have found three popular sayings that apply to community building that can be used as rule of thumb.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

I know this will come as a shocker, but there are lots of charlatans and “snake oil salespeople” out there.  People who not only don’t have experience and knowledge but they say with such authority and conviction that you are tempted to believe them. Alas, if you go beyond the soundbite there is no substance, no value.

These are the people that hurt a community the most since they tend to throw themselves into the role of leader or super-users.  I wrote before that communities are self-policed and self-managed, but when the community is too small it is hard to spot and “control” these charlatans.

Avoid if you can these people.  Until we have a reputation system based on more than noise made and buzzword compliance, demand and expect credentials to back up everything said.  Just because anyone can get a twitter account or a blog, does not mean they deserve to be heard.

Provide Sex Education, not Sex Training

This is a deviation from the Chinese-attributed story of teaching a man to fish versus giving them food.  This adaptation was first uttered, that I heard, by Mike Muhney in a webinar I attended – and I think it is a brilliant way to describe what your communities should be about.

Even in support communities you have to ensure that all members learn and grow.  The purpose of being a member of any community is to grow by sharing.  However, the growth should not be tactical (training), but rather methodical (education). Would you prefer that I solve your technical problem today, or that I teach you how to solve them yourself next time?

Good communities are made of people who want to extend their knowledge and both learn as well as impart valuable lessons.

A rolling stone gathers no moss

I wrote in my roadmap to SCRM series that communities are created and dismantled in short term, few of them live to be long-term.  Don’t be afraid to participate in different communities, to expand or contract them as the purpose is served or changes.

Keeping constantly moving is a way to ensure that you learn, grow, and reach new people for the different communities in which you participate.  You benefit yourself and others by cross-pollinating and frequenting different communities, by inviting new members in your communities.

Make sure to take advantage of that.

What are your favorite sayings to describe – well, anything and everything you do?  Are mine off the mark?  What do you use as your rule-of-thumb to build your online presence?

7 Replies to “Building Communities as the Saying Goes…”

  1. Agree that we need a reputation system based to allow a hierarchy of community members. Before Nintendo went into Apple Marketing Mode, they used to have a community of users that allowed people to gain different levels of status. These levels were based on actions like how many people recommended or commented on your post, how useful they found it, how many followers you had – standard stuff, but still missing from a lot of communities.

    Good content – thanks for sharing.

    (article found through twitter)

    Brian Mitchinson
    aka bkm555


    1. Brian,

      Thanks for the comment. Here is the thing: each community should set its own reputation, exclusive to that community, based on what matters to the team overall. Not on a preset number of metrics. Each community will use different ratings and metrics to set its super-users apart – or they should. For some it would the quality of the content, for others the number of contributions and yet for others the quality of the social graph for each user. Truth be told, this is something that is decided as time goes by in each community — so coming up with a reputation system for a community is something that materializes as time goes by — and the community will set and adjust that as time goes by.

      Of course, companies will see that different than the members of the community, but the members are the ones that set the guidelines.,

      Thanks for your very interesting comment.



  2. “If you never change your mind, why have one?” ~ Edward the Bono.

    Communities are not about being right or wrong, or about convincing people. Communities are about learning and growing together. If this involves changing your mind as a result of new insights, please do so.

    Great post, Esteban. Thanks!

    Christophe Van Bael


  3. Esteban,

    First of all, thanks for sharing and taking the time to write your SCRM roadmap. I think there was a misconception into thinking that I don’t appreciate the effort put into your posts when I responded for you to write your next segment when you tweeted that you had time to kill. You know it was only because I was looking forward to your next post (as am sure many others were) and was wondering when you were going to post it.

    I want to outline that I very much appreciate all the time and effort you put into it. I do realize that it’s not easy to write something as clear and comprehensive as you have on a subject that is still not being widely understood nor accepted and implementation guidelines not yet been defined.

    So for all of the above: Thank you. People like you who ‘willingly and freely’ write about their knowledge truly understand the value of sharing information and how it can be reciprocal even for them. I like that you take the time to respond to everyone and allow yourself to be challenged. This is where I think your blog has the most value (after your insightful posts of course) and really supports the community aspect.

    So when you say to demand credentials to back up what people say until we have a better reputation system in place, I couldn’t agree with you more. I can only speak from experience here but I have countless times been disappointed by certain people (who shall remain unnamed) who are just ‘smoke and mirrors’ with for example thousands of twitter followers. Fire off a question to them for a better in-depth understanding of what they are saying and get back a lousy ‘obvious’ vague answer.

    This leads me to believe that unfortunately we still have to question everyone we encounter and thus sift through the noise one by one. I’m sceptical that we’ll ever have a ‘perfect’ reputation system in place. There’s always a wise guy (or charlatan as you put it) out there able to get around things (yes I know we need them to improve the system) online and offline.

    So maybe that’s the issue. Would it be pessimistic to say that unfortunately that’s the human way? That not all people have good intentions? It is what it is. The onus is on you to be careful what you read and believe offline and online. We shouldn’t attempt to solve an unsolvable problem but rather provide tools that can be an indicator but not a foolproof solution. You still need to always question but obviously weigh the cost benefit of how much research you want to do before investing your nest egg. Not preaching, just saying: Web 2.0 or not… on the subject of being weary: nothing has changed.

    So that being said, not being able to control the fakes shouldn’t be a reason to not put into place platforms for communities. You can’t avoid them. And you can’t exactly “ban” them or delete their posts as you risk being called out for censorship. Once you start censoring, you lose all credibility. We need to hope that people will see through the fakers. I realize it’s naive to believe that everyone will be able to do this. Lots of people (myself included) have been vulnerable at times particularly when we have our guard down. Unfortunately, you can only learn from your mistakes (or wrong impressions), and believe me one by one, people will expose them and they won’t be seen as credible for much longer. It takes time, but it eventually happens. And unlike the offline world, there is a trace of the exposure!

    Thanks again for your openness to share and for the great insight you and your readers have brought me.
    .-= Frederique Garzon´s last blog ..lalachad: RT @ekolsky: Posted: The Roadmap to SCRM – Part 5 of 5 #SCRM #CRM #in =-.


    1. Frederique,

      First, thanks so much for a very nice comment and compliment. I sincerely hope you did not take my joking to heart – I really don’t mind people prodding me to write more — I am somewhat flaky at at that (especially when it comes to series). It has to do with the process I take for writing — I truly appreciate being pushed as it hastens things (my first series on the CEM methodology took me almost 3 months since no one “Reminded” me to do it).

      Second, your comments are right on! I think that as we move closer to online communities being essential to people and organization we are going to find better models to weed out the charlatans. It is not hard to build a follower and delude them into believing your words. An old friend of mine always said that if you say that the sky is green with sufficient conviction and bad data to support it, you can people to repeat it. The internet acts as a giant magnet for those people since they don’t really have to show who they truly are, and can hide behind any persona they chose to build for themselves. I think that we as members of communities will rise to challenge credentials and to confront charlatans more and more as we get more comfortable, and we will create our own reputation / ranking / validation model for each one separately. That should help, as much as having a cross-communities, global validation and reputation model.

      I don’t think you are being pessimistic – you are being, well — human. We cannot expect to have a perfect method because as you well point out someone will figure out a way to work around it (always have, always will). We have to be the ultimate line of defense and question everything. It may sound harsh, but how do you know that an expert is an expert without questioning their credentials? obviously some cases are more public and famous than others, but for the most part it is a path that leads to the answer.

      I am 100% in agreement also that the platforms must exist — and that is the cause for my position on organizations not controlling and running communities. They want them to be perfect, they want them to be — well, better than human. If they were to realize that humans as members of these communities want to learn and grow, they will also realize that when you don’t “parent” them communities self-police and discard the bad members (in different ways). People always rise to their needed level of intervention, and artificial engagement from the organization changes that.

      Thanks so much, truly, for an amazing clarity of thought. It is rare. And thanks for the patience — please continue to push me as you see fit, it is the only way I can grow and become better.



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