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« Mind the Gap: Turning Vision into Reality | Main | Red's - A Community Built Business »

July 10, 2008


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Yup. I agree completely. While the lines of what is community and what isn't may be fuzzy and subject to disagreement, they're more then just a few Twitter comments.

Patti Anklam's "Net Work" talks about networks having intentionality and purpose. At which point, relationships are defined along with collaborative interactions directed toward a common purpose. She says, "I believe that a community is an aspect of a network that is aware of its common purpose." She goes on, but it would be both difficult and wrong to type the whole book here. I think you'd like her book if you haven't seen it already.


Annette Schulte

Well-said, and I agree. Social media are the tools that the community can use for its networking and conversation and relationship-building.

I had not fully considered the "common goal" point, but it seems obvious now. Methinks I need to think on that some more.

Christian DE NEEF


I work in Knowledge Management and community is very important to KM. As in "Community of Practice" (CoP),

Social Media are a technology, a tool (in the broader sense of the word). They are not community and they do not create community. They are at best enablers, facilitators. Social Media certainly do not create the shared values that are required for people to share (knowledge, experience, support, ... whatever) in a community. As Etienne Wenger says: members of a community are informally bound by what they do together -- from engaging in lunchtime discussions to solving difficult problems -- and by what they have learned through their mutual engagement in these activities.

So, more than rating books of sharing music tastes... for a community to thrive, some form of commitment/sense of belonging is required.


Rachel Happe

Great comments - and I will check out Net Work!

David Wallace

The "social media" trend-let and buzzwords like 'crowdsourcing' wrongly gives the impression that user-generated content can replace news reporting, advertising, voting or other work where there are 'experts' with skills. Fans make an implicit assumption that everyone else out there is 'just like us' and wants to (or can) participate.

Communities in knowledge work thrive when people get - and offer - value from others and build trust. One key difference from 'social media' is a group with a shared goal or mission (open source software) as opposed to just open platform (YouTube, Twitter and other current 'open mic' sites).

My favorite example is the website. Started by a single reseller, it has grown into thousands of users and created a deep knowledge base (without IBM's support or permission). It has moved from CompuServe to its own website and matured along with the web since the 1990s.

Malcolm Kass

I agree. They do get confused.

Anne Gentle

Thank you so much for this post, Rachel... I am a technical writer who is reading and writing a lot of "deep thoughts" about documentation and conversation and community, and this post clarified so much for me! I'm very grateful.

Stephane LEE

Great post and comments...

I'd like to add that social media implies "media", which spells "push" in my mind.

Whereas community means that a common goal unites people, and that goal can be improving a brand products&services.

The brand will in that case favor a "pull" strategy, enabling the community to produce content and be part of the social media.

What do you think ?

Tim Wilson

Great post! We regularly run into clients who say they want to "build a community" but are *thinking* that they want to "use social media" and really *need* to be working on finding the best ways to "engage with their customers."

Phil Fersht


Completely agree that social media provides the tools, not the community - the people define and create the community based on common interests. We are getting some tight-knit blogging communities in some niche areas where there is a common goal to share information and getting together socially.

For example, Jason Busch runs a great blog "spendmatters" in his area of procurement, and uses his blog to bring together his readers and other bloggers socially, in addition to being a content portal:

Many people who are new to blogging / social media, do not realize the time investment to develop relationships with other people to build communities, based on common interests.


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