Once you have a group of people who are rallied around a topic or cause, a key part of building a community is platform for everyone to stay connected. In the age of social media, it’s easy to just point to things like Facebook, Twitter, or blogs but some of the best community platforms are offline like churches, coffee shops, are bars.
Let’s walk through some examples…
A couple of years ago, the DC technology/startup community was growing quickly and it was hard to keep up with all that was going on. Facebook had just come out with the relaunch of Facebook Groups. Facebook already has such unbelievable engagement that it just made sense to also make it the place for this group to congregate online to talk about what was happening in DC tech. So we created the DC Tech Facebook group and it just took off. A few years have passed and it now has over 1600 people.
Later, the community was looking for a way to connect via Twitter. My friend Debbie suggested that we start using a hashtag. She suggested #dctech. A year or so later and now the entire community uses the #dctech hashtag as a way to connect all of our disparate tweets together.
Moving away from technology communities… if you’ve seen the tv show Gossip Girl, it’s a tv show about a lot of well to do high school students who are looking to survive life on the Upper East Side of NYC. The community uses a blog, called “Gossip Girl”, which dishes on the social scene and gets piped to all of their cell phones as a way to stay in touch on what’s going on. The blog & their phones act as a platform for their community.
As I said, communities can be offline just as much as online. When I was in college, I had to spend time working in industry. I worked as a Web Developer at Michigan State University. It worked perfectly. Lived at home and was close to all my friends from high school, who were still in Michigan.
Of my friends who were still in the Lansing, Michigan area, we decided that we wanted to be intentional about staying in touch. We found a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant that we’d go to every Tuesday. It had cheap beer and nachos. The tradition lasted for years well behind the 6 months that I lived in Michigan. The mexican restaurant acted as an amazing platform for our little community to come together and talk about surviving life after high school.
You see similar situations played out in pop culture. I can’t even name all of the great TV shows. There was the crew that met at the bar Cheers, a good part of Friends was spent at a coffee shop, and a good part of one of my favorite tv shows How I Met Your Mother is spent at a pub in Manhattan.
If you have a community and a topic that ties you together, the next step is that you need some place or technology platform that can keep you all connected.