All Digital Communities Will Die, Unless...
Purpose, accountability, and tangible benefits will prevent your community becoming an empty shell
Technology has empowered us to create online communities that are fascinating, useful, and even world-changing. Digital communities have unquestionably enriched millions of people, regardless of where they are in the world and regardless of their social status.
To me, what’s really exciting is how the number and types of online communities have grown exponentially. Learning communities. Collaboration communities. Action communities. You name it.
But let’s not BS ourselves that all communities are awesome.
They’re often a massive time suck. They’re ineffective and poorly managed. And members don’t get out of them nearly as much as what they put into them.
The Digital Community Honeymoon Is Over
We've all joined online groups with the best intentions, yet for various reasons never really engaged with them. We’ve all joined tons of LinkedIn and Facebook groups that we’ve had high hopes for, then ceased to care about.
How many Discord servers are on your left bar that you never visit anymore?
See what I mean?
The “death” of the online community fascinates me because I love them so much. Oh yeah, I’m also the CEO of a platform built expressly to help creative entrepreneurs build and grow communities with purpose and benefits.
So, if you’re a creative entrepreneur, let me ask a candid question: If you’re committed to creating a community around your work, do you genuinely believe that your community will not only survive but also thrive for a long time?
I’m not trying to be pompously polemical here. I’m just fascinated with how so many digital communities start out being the most gorgeous car ever made, but soon they become ...
(Credit: Brandon Brown via Unsplash.)
So, How Can A Content Creator Keep Their Community Off Life Support?
I’m convinced that tangible benefits—including personal and mutual benefits—are the primary way to ensure that your community doesn’t die a dull death.
And, for the record, I’m not referring here to what I think of as standard benefits, such as enjoyment, learning, and interacting with other community members.
We need to think about going far beyond normal benefits. I’m saying this as someone who has built my own community, called L'Hacienda, around my podcast, Silicon Carne. Most people bought NFTs to join this community for one of the following reasons (which I know consider to be standard benefits):
They liked my podcast (or me) and wanted to support it.
They wanted to learn about Web3, were curious, and didn’t want to miss out.
They wanted to get to know other people who liked my podcast, and get to talk with them and learn from them.
Yet if the above is pretty much all of what someone will get out of my community, I predict that our L'Hacienda / Silicon Carne community will be dead in two years.
If you too just provide standard benefits to your community, it will also go the way of the dodo.
People want more than just run-of-the-mill benefits. They want unique opportunities. And they want to participate.
What’s the High Purpose of this Community?
Does your community have a peep squeak purpose or a BHAG purpose? Put another way, does your community have a low-level unexciting purpose or a high-level exhilarating purpose?
For your members to be truly inspired, you must have something in your community’s core that is beyond you and themselves. Also, your goal must address one of the most important questions that members ask: What’s in it for me?
See, the problem is often that individuals give to a community, but the community doesn’t adequately return the favor.
This all links with how recently members of my community have been asking a killer question: What is the purpose of this L'Hacienda / Silicon Carne community? They were asking it because, ultimately, many of them thought that the purpose of the community wasn’t clear enough to really commit to getting engaged in it.
My vision—call me crazy—is for our community to be filled with contributors. I’m excited about members not just sitting back and being fed run-of-the-mill benefits. Instead, I’m enthusiastic about members co-creating tangible benefits for other members.
I don’t want to be the main contributor to our community. If I am, it will surely kick the bucket.
I’m so committed to this idea that I’m open to there not even being a Silicon Carne podcast anymore.
What Is this community?
Sure, I know I created our community around a podcast. But I can see a possible day in the future where there is enough initiative within the community to create things under the Silicon Carne brand that are far more interesting than my podcast.
In a way, I consider my podcast to be like Mickey Mouse. Just reflect for a moment on how, over a century ago, Walt Disney created this cartoon character. But Walt didn’t stop there, did he? He then brought on other creative entrepreneurs who then substantially added to the Disney brand.
Nowadays, Disney is also Star Wars, which is phenomenal.
(Image created with Midjourney for this article.)
With that in mind, I’m excited about Silicon Carne hopefully not being just a podcast. It could be an event, a product, a newsletter, a fund, a think tank, a whatever—it all depends on where the community wants to take it!
Step Up and Be Accountable
So far I’ve connected how purpose and benefits are intricately linked to the success (or demise) of a community. But there’s one more essential ingredient.
It’s you. And it’s about how you, as a creative entrepreneur, need to take responsibility for your community.
Too many head-in-the-sky creators think they can establish the bare bones of a community, then just let it run on auto-pilot, watch the cash stream in, and wait for a Spotify deal to arrive in their inbox. No. To continue with the plane metaphor, that kind of on-auto-pilot-community will inevitably fly into a mountain. Boom. Gone.
You, as the initial leader of your community, need to step up and assume accountability for it.
Unlimiting Your Community Potential
I love the word “unlimit.” To me, it really captures the true potential of Web3, which is about unlimiting our individual and collective potential.
I know I’m not going to create stuff the other way-—which involves forming an LLC, opening a bank account, and all of that other corporate crap. Nope. Instead, I’m going to mint NFTs with roles in their smart contracts that compensate people automatically for what they’re doing inside the community. And in the process, I’m going to bypass content creator burnout, plus remove myself as the bottleneck.
To be frank, it’s still a work in progress for me to learn all the ins and outs of harnessing Web3 to unlimit the potential of my community.
What I’m absolutely clear about, though, is that it definitely won’t happen with old ideas and out-dated technology. If you can read the writing on the digital wall, come over to Uncut.FM to see how we can unlimit our community potential together.