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Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Formula break down of building communities: 90-9-1

Photo credit by Nial Kennedy
I've been thinking about how to build a community since NetSquared Camp and thought I'd share my thoughts on the topic. 

I had an amazing session hosted by Phillip Djwa and Crystal Henrickson from Chimpfund on the topic. During the presentation they touched upon the idea of participation inequality which is represented with 90:9:1. What exactly does that mean when it comes to  growing and creating a community ?
  • 90 % aren't engaged
  • 9% is somewhat engaged
  • 1% is super engaged 
You can read more about participation inequality here.

I'm glad I'm not alone in this phenomenon after chatting with everyone. Reflecting on my experience on building organizations and recruitment, these ratios has been very true. Building active communities is hard work and the more niche it is, the harder it is to create a big community. 

Stay persistent and don`t give up

When I was new to creating and building organizations getting results where the majority weren't interested or participating was demotivating. You tell people and everyone seems excited about being a part of it only for a small minority of them to show up and an even smaller group to be as fully engaged as you want them to be. 

Don't let the numbers get you down.

You build your community through the 1%

It's a matter of perspective. Crystal shared advice that I wish I had gotten when I started building and creating communities. If you are looking at how your community only grew by 3 people when there were 50 people that said they were interested it doesn't look fantastic. But if you look at how your community just grew from 3 to 6, you've doubled in size and doing pretty well! 

You build your community through the 1%, one person at a time.

Philip provides a great frame for designing and creating a community with his 8 design dimensions which you can view here. However, what I want to focus on is the idea of inclusion/participation and leadership he touched upon. 

There is an out and in group

Ideally we want to be completely inclusive and have everyone participating at the same level. However, the 9% somewhat engaged and 1% actively tends to be how communities are. With that in mind this does have parallels with the theory of Leader-Member Exchange. This leadership theory is unique in that its central focus is on the relationships between the leaders and members. Furthermore, it recognizes the existence of in-groups & out-groups within an organization. 

Researchers found that those in the in-group have greater participation, less turn over and greater organizational commitment. Which if we reflect on our life experiences can see how this exists. For example, teams where a few individuals do a lion share of the work or class back in school where there is one student answering all the questions. 

The question then becomes, how are you developing the relationships to grow your community ?

Focus on positive relationship building and you will be able to bring individuals from the out-group into the in-group.

"leader–member exchange focuses on increasing organisational success by creating positive relations between the leader and subordinate."

 In Leader Member Exchange this can be accomplished through :
  • Opportunity for new roles/responsibilities
  • High-quality exchanges with members
  • Focuses on ways to build trust & respect with all members – resulting in entire work group becoming an in-group

Relationships are the heart of a community

At the end of the day what makes a social community are the relationships with one another that weave into the fabric of the community. If your looking to develop a community focused on a niche you won't attract everybody. It's important you don't let that detract you as there will be those who are not interested, somewhat interested and those who are fully engaged. You will build your community through the 1% and creating opportunities for relationships to develop with others. 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment below !


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