I've a new slogan for myself, "Building and strengthening your online community". Since it's what I do, it makes sense to say it!
— Peter Mahoney (@petermahoney) November 13, 2012
A wonderful line from the Wikipedia article about Online communities.
An online community is a virtual community that exists online and whose members enable its existence through taking part in membership ritual.
I love the idea of describing our online interactions as ritual. After all, ritual permeates all of what we do. I even brush my teeth in a certain way that has become ritualistic. (Start on the lower left, scrubbing around the bottom before moving to the top).
Ritual can, at it’s most basic, be defined as:
That for me is it’s most basic meaning. I love ritual as an experience, something that can be shared, and transformative.
And that is the highest ideal of any online community, to help individuals change through participation in a shared group experience. The online medium of course is very different to a religious or secular ceremony, but it’s differences afford people the option to engage in a different way, to play out other parts of themselves, which is turn allows for a completely different transformation.
That’s my thought of the day. It’s amazing the train of thoughts a simple Wikipedia search can inspire.
Anyway, I’ve brushed my teeth, now on to work.
I’m breaking my own rules, so you don’t have to.
I maintain, and always have, that quality is the key component to any online community. A community of 200 people, with regular contributions from 90% of them, is a far better experience for your users, members, and clients, than 20,000 with .09% engagement.
Strong communities build strong reliances for your brand. I tell everyone this. I regularly check my online tribe to ensure it’s filled with real, engaged people.
Having said that, I just purchased 30,000 Twitter followers. I’m saying it openly, because it’s all a big test. An experiment of epic quantity.
Here’s the logic—there are all sorts of places selling bot followers for Twitter (“bot” means these aren’t real people, they only bolster your follower numbers) and just as many blog posts from people saying they’re a waste of time.
But of the two dozen bloggers I responded to, not one of them has done it themselves. I can’t get my hands on enough unbiased, experiential evidence to say for sure that they’re a waste of time.
I expect they are, I’ve always said so, but I want to be able to say it with the confidence that comes from having made the mistake first hand.
The only possible positive I can conceive of, is that there are users who might see your tweet retreated by an actual Twitter user, click your profile, and then feel assured that you’re worth following because thousands of other people already do—even though they really don’t. It’s a trick of building confidence in yourself by, basically, pretending lots of people already do see you as an opinion leader.
It’s dishonest, sure. And I still don’t think it’s any match for organic community growth. But I’ve done it now, and I’m telling you about it so it’s not quite as dishonest.
Naturally I’ll let you know how it goes. On the off-chance it does pay off, well, I’ll tweet you all about it. All 30,001 of you.