Bashing your head against a wall doesn’t always leave a bruise

3 March, 2010

I spent much of the second half of last year seemingly bashing my head against the proverbial brick wall. My objective was to get two online communities off the ground, I started from scratch, with nothing more than a general direction and a list of some people inside and outside of the business to talk to.  It frequently felt like I was on a fool’s errand, off on a wild goose chase, seeking a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow… ok enough of the clichés, it felt like it wasn’t going to work.

I spent an enormous amount of time and energy telling people about these communities, inviting them, showing them around and being super excited about them even though in most cases the members themselves didn’t seem to particularly care.

By the end of year I had started to make  progress, both were beginning to show the first signs of life…. then came Christmas and all of those signs vanished. Both were dead, or so I thought.

An amazing thing has happened in the last few weeks, momentum has returned, leaders have been identified and they are running with it!

The point that really brought it home to me, came up in a community leaders meeting this morning. Two of the members had been talking since the last meeting and decided that the community really needed a community charter!! My first instinct was to say “where the hell were you 6 months ago!!!!!?!” (see this post for what I was trying to do), but on reflection it occured to me that the community wasn’t ready for the structure of a charter, it needed time to grow  and to create it’s own identity, now after several months that is beginning to happen.

We’re only seeing the green shoots of life, but it is happening and that makes me smile. So to all of you community builders, persist, keep talking to your members and as long as you have laid the foundations you will see the rewards.


4 Responses to “Bashing your head against a wall doesn’t always leave a bruise”

  1. I suspect Community Management will always have a touch of magic about it – a bit like traffic jams, flash mobs, tulip fever and public transport timetables.

    It’s bang on to talk about banging your head against the wall. Far too many people seem to spend 70% on the ‘perfect design’, 20% haranguing and only 10% mentoring and marketing.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about social gaming and online communities. It occurs to me that something like the wonderful EchoBazaar (or even the less wonderful Farmville) would be a good way to tie communities together and remind people of the community’s existence, without feeling like a reminder.

    Did you see these two presentations on Community Management on social interfaces and game mechanics?

    Putting the fun in functional


    Designing social interfaces

    They’re both embedded in my blog posts. Sorry, that’s a bit rubbish in a comment thread but it’s the easiest way for me to refind them 😦

    • Mick Leyden Says:

      Hey Simon,

      Thanks for stopping by. In a wonderful example of web induced serendipity, I had been reading through your blog on the day you posted this comment! (then it took me a week to reply…)

      It is definitely difficult to balance the planning vs the actual engagement. I agree that it is really easy to fall in to the trap of over planning and not doing, or allowing our Lizard brain to drive us as Seth Godin put it.

      I hadn’t seen those slide packs both have some, really interesting stuff. The idea of embedding the qualities of social gaming in communities something I’ve wanted to explore more for a little while now, particularly the idea of building ratings which can be used to demonstrate credibility.

  2. That’s great Mick. I’ve often thought the gardening analogy is a good one for communities. As a keen backyard gardener (i.e. plants and stuff) I know from experience that you have to keep ensuring the right environment for things to grow. This takes time, and nothing beats seeing those green shoots growing up into a beautiful plant. 🙂

    • Mick Leyden Says:

      It is a very delicate process, the key seems to be striking the right balance of ingredients (people, content, enthusiasim/passion).

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