Feeling the Community

campfire crowd Tonight, I was talking to a new friend, someone who’s participated here for a while, but also someone I’d yet to meet in person. I asked her how she was doing, and it led to an interesting conversation. You see, a friend of her’s passed recently, and it brought up the question, “did you REALLY want to know?” She knew that I did, but we got into a chat about how sometimes, companies and people want us to feel that they care about us, but they don’t, and we know it. We feel it. Until we feel the right community, and we know they want us for who we are.

We ask people all the time how they’re doing, and rarely do we really want the deep story. But when we’re among people who care, when we’re among people who know about us, or people like us, then things change a bit. Right?

There are languages we use with these different communities. If I’m talking with Star Trek folks, I can talk about red shirts and they’ll smirk appropriately. If I talk to business people about company valuations, they know what’s what. My Dad talks poker so well that I have to ask him to educate me on the phrases from time to time, but then I can use that language when I talk with other poker folks.

There are ways we react and treat each other. In skateboarding communities, scars and scrapes are treasures to talk about. Failure is all part of learning to them. In San Francisco startup culture, failure’s a badge, too. But in New England, we treat things a bit more cautiously.

One thing’s for certain: you can’t fake community, and you can’t force it, either.

Just because I just bought the Panasonic DMC-LX3K (amazon link) doesn’t immediately mean that I want to join a community for that particular camera. But then, if I do, it’s hopefully to talk with other enthusiasts who are then going to encourage me or grow my skillset or provide some other value.

We don’t just join communities because we like a product or service or thing. We gather around people who feel what we feel, and we share passion for things that bring us some sense of pleasure or joy, or even healing.

Where are your communities? Where do you belong? What do you get from there? And finally, what would you tell the company who seeks to participate in a community with you?

photo credit wili_hybrid

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  • http://www.sitesketch101.com Nicholas Z. Cardot

    Yeah. I just noticed that too. Very clever…and very effective.

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  • http://www.charleslau.com Charles Lau

    Chris, you have asked a valid question about where my communities are, and where I belong to.

    Honestly speaking, I really don't know myself. I floated virtually everywhere. But one community I am more consistently in is Twitter. I will usually learn the latest news and website knowledge from my community

    If a company wants to join in Twitter, I would want to see them participating from an employee's level rather than from a brand's level. It's because when they twitter behind that brand name, they will almost definitely be feeling stressful that they might communicate the wrong message to the public. But if they twitter from their own name working for that brand, we are getting personal with the actual staff and it feels closer with them too! What's your take for my opinion?

  • http://www.jdpower.com/corporate/news/releases/pressrelease.aspx?ID=2008107 Apx Alarm

    Nice thoughts. Community is a powerful thing.I agree with the majority of it, it seems to make sense. Social Media changes everything for the better because it expands the supply of Community and Connection and lowers the 'Price'. Its really a cool post. I have been wondering about this topic,so thanks for writing.

  • http://twitter.com/Ed Ed Shahzade

    “Where are your communities? Where do you belong? What do you get from there? And finally, what would you tell the company who seeks to participate in a community with you?”

    A real community is where you find yourself wanting to give.

    Companies that set up social 'communities' because it's
    the hot new thing are doomed to fail.

    If the people in those companies who are passionate about
    both the product, and other enthusiasts are chosen to create, or lead their community, they'll win and will rise to the top.

    Impatient management that's waiting to count more beans,
    and that bleeds a sense they're ready to pounce and sell
    at every mention of “I met get the new _______”,
    deserve to fail.
    Instead, the should curate and cultivate their fans by listening
    and rewarding. Imagine that? A company actually giving back?

    A real community is where you find yourself wanting to give.

  • kaddieodden

    I wholeheartedly like this post. By sharing views with others we can enhance our knowledge. Thanks for continuing to share how we all need to be true to who we are, who we want to connect to and how we need to treat them well for them even giving us the time of day!

  • kaddieodden

    I wholeheartedly like this post. By sharing views with others we can enhance our knowledge. Thanks for continuing to share how we all need to be true to who we are, who we want to connect to and how we need to treat them well for them even giving us the time of day!

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  • http://wildaboutlife.org brigid

    “too much information” is the comment people receive if they have indulged themselves in actually replying honestly and fully to the “how are you” question.
    I don't think I actually belong to a community, I have always been happy doing what I do and not having to conform. I have chosen people I like to hang with but they are many and varied, I prefer to be with them on a personal basis, not as a group.
    I can relate to KateO's comment regarding people simply relating on a personal and focused issue. The ability for us all to connect worldwide is a new phenomenon, its not a random unecessary thing. Being able to chat to people we think we don't know brings about the realisation that we are far more similar than we think. The ability to focus on problems, issues or anything else in a very succinct way is fantastic. Its no longer necessary to talk about the weather or the kids grades first as an ice breaker. We just get straight to the point.

  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert_Maruggi

    And this is exactly why I pick up the phone. It might be old school, but from time to time it's good to hear a person's voice.

    All the best,

  • JJ

    Great post, I should digg it.

  • Jean

    what would I tell the company who seeks to participate in a community with me?

    Back off ! I guess it means I don't care how a company presents itself, their new media marketers are just glorified telemarketers. And they are as annoying as telemarketers were, with a touch of used car salesman.

    Companies, stop polluting social media!

  • http://onehundredfortywords.com/ Judy Unrein

    Chris, I've been reading your blog for a while now but this is the first time I've commented. Maybe it's because it struck a chord with what's going on currently; I'm becoming more and more active in online communities and I'm also studying the idea in my “Thinking, Learning, and Computers” class this semester.

    Anyway, the communities I have gained a lot from in recent years are fellow professionals and students in Instructional Design, which is what I do for a living. This is a relatively new field (at least as a separate discipline from teaching) and I am the only ID at my job (and I only know a couple of other ones locally). So the online communities I've joined have increased my knowledge and given me contacts professionally, as well as just been a forum for socializing with others in my field.

    The advice I would give to any company wanting to sell within these communities is probably much the same advice I would give anyone wanting to sell anywhere: Have something of value to offer us, take the time to understand what we need, and don't push it… if your product or service is good, we will practically sell it for you through WOM.

    Thanks for the great posts!

  • ilyceglink

    Chris: I met you over the author's signing table at New Media Atlanta on Friday morning. (I'm the real estate author/financial journalist who has a new book coming out in April – photo of us conversing is on my blog at ThinkGlink.com).

    I flew home last night reading Trust Agents – which I love, BTW. But the spell of true community is what really struck me about the New Media Atlanta event. Everyone who was in that room (packed to the gills, a computer on every desk) had made the decision that there was nowhere more important in the world to be that day.

    True community is about engaging in a way that breeds instant connection. It's powerful, seductive, and can be long-lasting – like finding your best friend from when you were 10, and being able to slip back into the connection as if you last spent time together yesterday.

    I felt as though I made 10 new friends yesterday – including someone I'm going to see for dinner Tuesday night in Chicago.

    Thanks for being there. Your talk was awesome! Hope to run into you again soon.

  • campbele

    So, I guess you know when you write these great posts you're not just talking business?

  • canamgirl

    Such a great note and completely in line with a discussion I had last night with some friends who ride motorcycles. I personally have never ridden, but my last boyfriend owned a CBR and would take me for rides; that was the only reason I could participate in the conversation last night. Even though I could contribute, I still felt like a “poser,” and wondered as I read about your insights about poker from your dad if you ever had that feeling?
    Humans want to identify, want to feel like they belong; that they belong to something. If you find what it is that comprises a human being, you have found a way to make a connection and in essence established the ability to become a “Trust Agent.” :)

  • http://www.mojo2go.us/ Judy | mojo2Gp

    This post further legitimizes your thoughts from an August post: 'Community Can Be SO Powerful'. In this relatively new 'virtual world' it's now COMMUNITY 2.0 incorporating CIVILITY 2.0 (As described by: International Human Dignity and Judicial Interpretation of Human Rights) ‘Valuing the inherent worth and dignity of every person, fosters a community of mutual respect’.

    The operative word being 'mutual'. When most of us ask, 'How are you?', it's done more as an unemotional salutation, something like a very low key, 'hey' as you rush by. So it's really no surprise that the response is as canned, and as unemotional.

    I tested this theory … While in the check out line at the local grocery store, the cashier asked; 'How are you?’ My response: 'I have 3 months to live.' Her reply, 'That's good!'

    She didn't hear me! She didn't even realize what I said for several seconds. BUT once she did…. her eyes popped, she dropped the grocery item on the belt and apologized for her insensitivity. I shared with her my theory and she, as a result, promised to HEAR the response the next time she asked the question.

    Lesson-> give a sh*t about the stranger you're about to meet. They could be a nightmare, or your next, BEST CUSTOMER. And if they're already in your 'community' then the 'mutual' component is already there.

    Once again … thanks Chris for the thoughtful dialogue ..

  • http://twitter.com/rockinrobync Robyn Cobb

    Hey Greg, I am the friend Chris mentioned in this post. I knew he was interested through a variety of cues: body language, expression and words. I can also tell you that the story doesn't end here. The next day when I saw Chris at New Media Atlanta he made a point to reach out and ask me how I was. Chris is uniquely authentic and gracious. I think the message of community is important and what I hope is that this post is not just a nice story but that folks truly stop and think. It's not social media that will change the world, it's just the vehicle. It's people that create the change and I think Chris is a catalyst.

  • greggmorris

    Hi Robyn!

    Thank you for clarifying all of those particulars. I agree completely about Chris. Now that I've seen him “work a room” so to speak, I am even more impressed with the man.

    You raise a very perceptive point about community, story, social media and people. Chris does indeed seem to be a catalyst for change and a wonderful connector from what I have seen.

    I hope you are managing to cope with the loss of your friend. I am not sure that there is anything harder for us to deal with than that unexpected hole that the passing of one close to us leaves.

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  • http://twitter.com/RiverwoodWriter Elizabeth Cottrell

    Fascinating ideas flying here…since many of the these virtual communities seem to coalesce and evolve on the fly, moving in one direction or another as members of the community add their wants, needs and contributions, a smart company can only be aware, keep listening and be responsive. No one person–and no one company–can be all things to all people. And, in fact, I don't want every person I meet to be my best buddy or my soul mate. I can only do justice to a few quality relationships in my life and most of us can only stay on top of a few active communities.

    The point made by StartaBuzz about a growing company struggling to stay personal is an excellent one. I think one of the secrets is for management to hire people with a service mindset, cultivate the ethic of personal engagement and transparency, and empower individuals at all levels to give the same kind of service that the owner/CEO would give himself or herself if they could interact personally with every customer or prospect.

  • http://www.tiffanyfeeling.com/ tiffanyfeeling

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  • http://www.tiffanyfeeling.com/ tiffanyfeeling

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  • http://twitter.com/otherdiscovery Dr Scott John

    It is interesting to reflect on why we ask others in our communities questions about their feelings, thinking and experiences.

    I wonder how much of our communication or questions (regardless of whether we have particular commonalities or not) has really got much to do with our level of care for the other person or their ideas.

    When I say 'level of care', I mean to what degree does what we hear in response impact on our subsequent thinking or actions. This to me is the true test of our 'feelings of community'.

    So Chris when you asked after Robyn's well being, at one level she sensed you cared and felt a sense of connection. At a deeper level, I was wondering how did what you heard in Robyn's response to your question impact on YOUR subsequent thoughts or actions?

    Were your thoughts enhanced, changed, modified? Were your subsequent actions informed by or directly related to her response?

    Just a thought??
    Love Ya Work!

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  • http://www.roundpeg.biz Roundpeg

    For years I worked in a company, where people tossed the “how are you doing” at each other while walking at break neck speeds in opposite directions down a long hallway.

    I tried an experiment, just for fun. Without stopping ( because that would have been out of place,), but with an incredibly upbeat tone, I would reply: “Just lousy, but thanks for asking”

    Most people, reacting to the tone of my voice, would simply say, that's great and keep walking. This was a sure sign they weren't listening. But every now now and then, I would hear their footsteps pause behind me, as it dawned on them what I had actually said. I would turn, without breaking stride, smile and wave. It became an inside joke, among those of us, who truly listened.

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  • jvaudreuil

    I was just thinking about “buying a product does not mean I'm part of that brand's community” today. I can't stand getting certain cause or brand requests on Facebook – I'd rather seek out what I love and join it, because otherwise it feels forced.

    We opt in to communities that revolve around our passions, not our credit card statements.

    And we New Englanders need to wear badges of failure a little more proudly. I'm proud to have been on the ground floor of a failed start-up, and if I was given that shot again I'd take it.

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  • http://www.netwitsthinktank.com frank barry

    Really feeling the community takes time in most cases. Take Twitter as an example. Twitter is really all about the people who participate there – the community. The thing is when I 1st got on Twitter I didn't know anyone. There was a massive community with many sub-communities within it, but I didnt know anyone or anything about the “rules” of the community or the language that the community used.

    I had to spend time giving.

    Once I started giving, observing, listening, finding things to connect with and interacting then the community started to take me in.

    After about a year I really do have a community of friends on Twitter, but it took work to build and continues to take work so that the community stays in tact.

    If someone wants REAL community I tell people/companies that it takes time, you have to learn about the community you want to engage with and you've got to be genuine in your interest.


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