Building communities – our experience so far.
The modern web largely revolves around networks and communities. We’re social, pack animals at heart and we like forming communities of people like us, or with similar needs and drives.
In building a digital community each additional user makes the whole more valuable for everyone, the ‘network effect’. While the term was coined around the time of the invention of the telephone, it has entered widespread use again as digital platforms work to enhance the overall experience with each new user.
At findr we are building a global photographer marketplace, which means we need to create a large community of photographers who want to make a better working world for themselves and the wider industry.
An engaged diverse community allows for more widespread sharing of clearer information. With transparent, unrestricted access to a marketplace and a standardised suite of networking and market positioning tools the overall effect is to improve the working lives of photographers and make access to photographers by customers simpler and more efficient.
Various mechanisms are used to help build communities, networks and trust between groups of people. The following examples have been used to promote growth and add value back to users and communities.
Content creation – Minecraft, YouTube, Instagram. Large communities built around people being able to create and share content with likeminded people all over the world.
Personal development – Task Rabbit. TaskRabbit discovered that over time their community was creating content to help improve each other’s skills, for example upskilling from changing a lightbulb to installing a shelf.
Provision of work – UpWork. Creating dedicated professional networks to match service providers with customers more efficiently.
Crowdfunding – Brewdog, people investing in the company not only gave cash, but also created additional marketing channels and higher levels of engagement through ownership.
Advocacy – NRA, BMA, trade unions. Regardless of where you sit on the National Rifle Association (NRA) it has to be said that they advocate for their members and have been used as examples of good case studies for this outreach. Community members know that as a membership organisation they will advocate for them very strongly.
Perks – Tesco Clubcard. Membership perks including discounts or specific offers for related products and services are effective tools to engage users in community interactions and establish brand loyalty.
Certification – Chartered Financial Analyst. By offering certification to investment professionals the CFA aligns people around common goals and drives ethical behaviour. A principled community enables clear understanding and trust for members and potential customers.
Shared Goals – CrossFit. A global community of people who repeatedly run in circles, lift things up, then carefully place them back down. People engage around a shared vision of fitness and encourage others to join by showcasing their healthy lifestyle on Instagram and other social channels
Shared Beliefs – Oxfam. A shared belief that in a world rich in resources, poverty isn’t inevitable and international development will help people come back stronger. Organised religion, one of the longest lasting and most fervent examples of community, is another great example of shared beliefs, people congregate around a shared belief in fictional entities.
Breaking down the examples above helps understand the underlying principles and themes and informs the ways in which our new community is being structured.
Social interaction – Underpins nearly all of the examples above. The most successful platform, Facebook, enables interactions of every type and in doing so creates a social infrastructure that has gradually consumed other platforms entirely.
Trust – A large part of growing communities and networks is building trust between participants, especially if they are to transact with each other. This was especially important with the growth of the sharing economy. By having the mutual reviews section, where one party can review another, a degree of social proof is created and helps build trust between the two sides. While these persist, the priority is no longer about building trust through anonymous reviews, which have been corrupted over time, but through peer review with quality control and provenance.
Network – Community growth through better exposure by utilising secondary networks. Airbnb initially posted adverts for their properties on Craigslist, the classified ads site and now you can book Airbnb through booking.com. Both examples engage a wider user base by leveraging other networks and allowed Airbnb to enlarge their native community.
Tools – “Come for the tools, stay for the network”. OpenTable grew by offering booking management tools to restaurants. As the supplier network grew the overall value did too by connecting the individual management platforms together it was possible to drive traffic of people wanting to book tables at restaurants to one place.
Quality Control – Reviews are ratings are wonderful catalysts for trust but only where they are transparent and honest. Uber’s two-sided ratings allows for a high quality of drivers and cars to be maintained but also for drivers to avoid unwieldy customers.
As social creatures we have a desire to be included in activities that align with our personal interests and positioning. Well-crafted communities make this easier for all users however engaged they wish to be.
At findr we’re driven to inspire and develop every member of our community, to increase professional confidence and enable connections with others, both customers and peers. We’re all human and by believing and trusting in the power of community and connections we can build a better way of working.
Headline photo by Helena Lopes