Creating a Community while Keeping it Real

January 31, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

I just read a post that incited me to write. I feel compelled. I feel inspired. Maybe I just feel angry. Or it could be from the tuna and vegetables I had for dinner. Tasty.

While creating Community Next I have learned so many things. This event is creating an ecosystem aka community. A community is bringing together people with similar interests.

How do you do that successfully? That is for another post. This post is about how while creating it, trying not to damage it and Keeping it Real.

If you are going to write or plan on creating a community the focus is NEVER on money. Unless you say “I am creating a community who cares about making money in communities.” Or something like that…

I have gotten asked a few times about how much I am making from Community Next. Not enough. I am not doing it for the money. I can do other things that make more money in a shorter period of time with less work. Wow what a great run on sentence;)

The point is I wanted to create a cool event of extremely high quality about online communities and social networks. (Note: When I say I, I mean everyone involved in making it happen). Something I am involved in and very curious about. The costs were secondary. Yes, we had a budget but it has always been about how can we make this the most bad ass mofo event ever! It turns out that people recognized the authenticity have responded extremely positively. Ie. we have sold out with 10 days left. Thanks everyone!

We wanted to raise the bar on events for all other conferences out there. Not tooting my own horn yet cause we still have 10 days left. Yes, I am nervous….

What are you babbling about Noah? I am saying when you want to create a community you can do it successful in 2 ways:

1- Active participant. You always have a drinking group and you say let’s put this on a website. Then more join and more join and so on. Bamn. Done. Community.

2- Have something Killer.
No, not literally. Make an awesome product. Make an event or site that people want to talk about it. Create a system for it. Allow them to give feedback. Provide tools for people to develop it. Bamn #2. Community is formed.

Any others? I think an artificial community or one where you measure value on communities or start thinking about “monetizing” them before anything is created is the worst approach ever. People are NOT dumb. They get smart and will leave.

The new buzzword on the web is “oh it is a community for this” or “oh we will build a community around it.” Communities are not toys or ideas but people that have interests and things they like. Just remember when you are checking your new member sign-ups they are not #s but REAL people that live, breathe and poop just like you.

Do me a favor…..

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18 responses to “Creating a Community while Keeping it Real

  1. Jason Reply

    Noah, great post 🙂

    I agree with you that having something killer is imperative, but I think another important aspect of growing a sucessful community is “marketing”. Noah, what do you think it’s the best way to market a new community?

  2. Noah Kagan Reply

    Jason, Glad you liked it=) That question could be a whole post itself. I think the essential thing is being realistic about your goals to start. Marketing really is about having a extremely solid and powerful core group of users. From there is another post=)

    Flickr for the longest time was thought of as HUGE. It was relatively small compared to any major photo site but they had a great core user base. Read their old blog entries and see if you can learn anything. Let us know if you do.

  3. Luke Reply

    …Keep it real!!!

    Noah, awesome post! The reason you should “start” an online community is to do/ learn/experience/talk about more of what you already love to do/learn/experience/talk about. You need to be “real” with yourself about what those things are before you start one or join one, and, as you said, real and transparent about this with your users at every point along the way.

    Thanks for doing that with this upcoming event. I am sure that the true passion you and others had for putting it together will be evident and it indeed will be “the most bad ass mofo event ever”. I look forward to doing/learning/experiencing/talking about online communities with other like-minded ballers.

  4. Tara Hunt Reply

    I don’t know if there is ever a ‘Bamn’ then community. Even in the ‘perfect storms’.

    However, I like that you’ve been inspired to talk about how monetizing doesn’t make sense in relationship building.

  5. Bernadette Balla Reply

    Most importantly get feedback after the event to see if it was as great as you planned it to be.

    You know if it sucks so bad i will tell you. Noah we are finally getting reunited…

  6. Miles Reply

    I would also add that if your community (like ours) is to some degree about money then you need to be brutally honest about how you are ‘making’ money and what benefit if any someone gets from being part of the community.

    If you have all the basics out there (what do I get? why? etc etc) then its much easier to have some good coversation about the things that need to be improved and how to go about it.

  7. AdamD Reply

    Community isn’t a new buzzword. When I went to SXSW 2000, there was a lady who had just been hired as Community Director for a vitamin-selling website. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but it was definitely monetization thinking and felt a little fake to me.

    Fake, of course, is the opposite of real.

  8. Marshall Middle Reply

    You should Askaninja to make a special appearance at the event. Then it would definately be killer! Also consider offering a live feed or blog to describe the highlights as the event is happening. Just some ideas.

  9. damonz Reply

    Nice post. I agree, there are so many communities on the net, why would i join one unless it offered something unique and special?

    Speaking of Killer, I hold Milli Vanilli responsable for killing 80s music with their lip synching fiasco!!! Then again, their mistakes helped the careers of future lolitas and boy bands who really made sure to invest a lot in lip synching technology 🙂

  10. Damon Billian Reply

    Hi Noah,

    I think you’ve put together a great lineup of folks & that’s why I am going. I am even paying for it out of my own pocket & not on the company dime.

    I think you may have been asked the question because Michael Arrington has apparently made good sums of money from his bashes.

  11. Robert Franklin Reply

    Congrats on selling out Community Next. I am getting more excited with each passing day to attend. It is packed end to end with great speakers and interesting topics. It took me a lot longer than you to find out that coporate america is not the place to be if you have lots of passion, purpose and creativity. To realize that it is not about the money but loving what you do is a invaluable life lesson. When you love what you do everything else falls into place.

    Looking forward to meeting you and honoring what you have created. Kick ass job!

  12. saving advice Reply

    When you approach it the way you describe, the money will come. The problem with those that try to make money first is that they have no focus on what the community really needs and thus it never forms.

  13. jamescoops Reply

    I think this is the reason why no major media corporation (MTV etc) have managed to create a good online community – its hard for them to build the bottom-up, organic, social vibe that’s required.

    There’s a few approaches that a lot of the successful communities seem to have – for example some kind of individual “dude” like Tom or Kevin Rose who bring personality

    The type of initial users that are attracted and the bonds between them also seem to be important.

    Its an interesting area.