Note from Beth: Mitch Arnowitz and I recently participated in an online discussion atVenture Philanthropy Partners/Leap of Reason about creating a community of practice for continuous improvement and high performance in the nonprofit sector. We were part of an email thread with a small group of individuals offered input on community management systems and facilitator recruiting resources. After I wrote up this summary on my blog, How To Get Started Thinking About Online Peer Learning Communities for Nonprofit Professionals, Mitch offered to write a guest post reflecting on peer learning online and online communities.
Mitch has a long-time history with online communities – having been involved with online communities for over a decade and so he has context. In an age of fast-paced technology changes, we can often forget just how valuable having a context is. I was delighted when he offered to write up some reflections.
Online Communities: Are Best Practices Still Best Practices?
The discussion thread reminded me of an AdMarketing conversation we had a long time ago. The Netpreneur AdMarketing list, one of the longest running Internet marketing lists and still active, is an adventure of the Morino Institute. Over the last decade, the fundamentals of community and relationship building haven’t really changed. What was important then is even more important now!
I thought it might be fun (and useful) to take a look back at this AdMarketing conversation. At the time, we invited Internet thought-leaders to participate in an email list discussion, focusing on interactive tools. What transpired was a conversation among pioneers of early day Internet community building that produced way interesting insights. Below are several takeaways and pointers from that conversation. Looking back, its amazing how little has changed, how relevant these lessons are today and how important it is to do things the right way.
Highlights: April, 2002 Netpreneur AdMarketing discussion
* Customer service is really important. Craig Newmark, of Craigslist fame, talks about culture, customer service and doing things the right way. He also offers up a short list of how to ‘do’ customer service better.
* Communities, trust and The Tipping Point. Diane Hessan, of Communispace (now part of Omnicom), talks about credibility and private labeled communities. Diane’s company was involved in one of the early Internet focus group efforts with its Hallmark Moms Club
* Project management and success– Cliff Figallo has done a ton of stuff for some great companies including Cisco, the WELL, Electric Minds (Howard Rheingold), Social Media Today, AOL/GNN and Salon. Cliff built one of Cisco’s first online communities and reminds us that project management will always be a key ingredient for successful communities. He also had a hand in designing early days of the leader board effect’ where recognition was the reward. As an added bonus, Cliff also talked about his involvement in the WELL one of the Internet’s oldest communities and watering holes.
* It always begins with strategy– Nancy White, of Full Circle Associates , reminds us how important strategy will always be. I know, I know- its easier to talk tactics but questions like those that Nancy poses help ensure a successful community. In her spare time, Nancy also moderates online facilitation, another long running Internet discussion list and maintains an excellent wiki, chock full of invaluable resources.
* Dealing with good and bad buzz– Pete Snyder, formally of New Media Stratedgies (now part of Meredith Corporation) and most recently a run for Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor talks aboutthe need to track good & bad online buzz for clients. He also says that the Internet is the worlds largest focus group and talks about why companies should care- great stuff!
* Infrastructure is really important– Howard Rheingold, star of futuristic Super Bowl commercials, has long been considered the father of virtual reality and online community building. He authored The Virtual Community and was an original founder of the WELL. Here, he discusses the importance of social infrastructure and facilitation while building online communities.
What did we miss a dozen years ago? What are some of the the other ‘mission critical’ elements to online community and relationship building?
Mitch Arnowitz is the managing director Tuvel Communications, LLC