“Most Folks Belong to Several Communities” — this is one of the points made by Jeremiah Owyang in his discussion of replacing the term “Audience” with ‘Community.”
Jeremiah’s point is that “audience” implies passivity and “community” implies “involvement.” Here’ a Jeremiah quote:
We’re in the era where the audience is on the stage, participating, communicating and sharing.
I like that image. But not all communities are created equal. The level of involvement people have with different communities varies widely. This has implications for how you define and measure the level of engagement that people have.
For some the measurement of and influence over this level of engagement has very real dollars and cents implications. One example is rate setting for group-specific advertising. Another is the management of barriers of entry into different communities in terms of some type of exclusivity. (I’m reminded of Grouch Marx’ famous saying: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”)
I’ve been thinking about this “multiple communities” issue a lot recently. I’ve been working with some professionally-oriented groups on how they can use social networking and social media in improving services to their customers and members.
One of today’s realities is that the number of opportunities for social and professional networking is growing, partly because it is so easy to create a specialized membership-based community with specialized communication and information-sharing features.
One of the points I make to my own clients and prospects is that they can treat this ability to proliferate specialized communities as a threat — or as an opportunity. Naturally I’m on the “opportunity” side — I am, after all, a consultant (!) — but I will be the first to admit that, for some people, the “multiple community” model of member involvement requires some getting used to. Some traditional membership and customer management processes and technologies are not set up to deal with the complexities (and expenses) that arise when you try to capture and track the complexities of member or customer involvement in multiple communities.
Perhaps a simple — and logical — initial step in developing a workable strategy to improve member services through appropriately-managed social networking applications is to understand the current “community involvement” opportunities that already exist for each community you are trying to serve.