Coaching a Community

by Laura Brunow Miner

19 Reader Comments

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  1. I think Leo nailed it with his two points which relate to the importance of clearly defining your community’s culture and/or subcultures so that you in turn attract the type of people you do want and deter those you don’t want.

    I mean a good example of this is when I’ve been within some communities that are supposedly focused on “friends and family” yet certain people within the community get upset when asked to avoid excessively swearing or using derogatory words. In their mind, they feel like “their” space is being threatened and they can’t be themselves within it. Thus what happens is you have this conflict between these two groups over simple forms of interaction because these two groups are coming from different subcultures.

    In effect, one group sees their environment kind of like a pub, where they hang out with their adult friends and family from the neighborhood and shoot the breeze. The other group, however, sees their environment like being in someone’s home, with younger kids running through it, so they assume it should be a little more sheltered and reserved (althought swearing once in a while is fine).

    Again there’s nothing wrong with having both subcultures within the same community but when communities start, one initial culture has to be clearly defined as to what it is. Then later, as other subcultures start emerging, “spaces” as Leo indicated need to be created, so that these subcultures can thrive as well. If you don’t create these spaces then friction and splintering will occur within the community and people will leave.

    PS. An older but still relevant book on this subject by Amy Jo Kim is “Community Building on the Web”.

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  2. Not much is talked about community webistes. Your article is perhaps one of the very few that covers the topic in an enriching way :) I feel it is very important to make community members a important part of the community. Only then will they be motivated to make genuine contributions for the betterment of the community!

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  3. I have learned all of this to be true. This is a great post and it speaks to the amount of work it really takes to grow and nurture an online community. It takes a very human approach and that is often overlooked. I’ve written a book about my experiences growing an online community set to publish in May. It’s called “18 Rules of Community Engagement” and I certainly see some of my points in this post. Look forward to visiting more often.

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  4. As the community grows, most of the rewards should be coming from other members. They should be the ones thanking other members for contributing. They should be the ones mentioning specific names when talking with the community.

    You still need to get involved and ensure the spotlight turns on quieter members from time to time. After all, you’ve already won over your most active members. Now you need to do the same with those that are sitting in the shadows.

    Community building requires effort and hard work. Never stop stroking egos, and never stop rewarding members of your online community. Just make sure you aren’t tempted to get out your cheque book. Remember – money doesn’t buy you community or relationships. Just (very) temporary loyalty.

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  5. Having created a number of online communities over the years, I have come to realize that there is no one single formula or event that seems to get the community to suddenly take on a life of it’s own – that point where the community can roll on virtually forever without input, guidance, or coaching from it’s founder. In business communities, this seems more difficult to achieve – perhaps because we tend to be more competitive rather than sharing, yet in my art or cooking communities, such as our recently launched which features “instructional cooking videos”:, recipes and community participation – this seems to happen naturally and in a relatively short period of time – perhaps because the art and food communities are simply of a more open and sharing nature?

    Excellent article – and excellent comments generated!

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  6. Unlike real world communities there are people who overstep their bounds because of the anonymous nature of the internet. This often becomes the source of stress for those in the community. Just something to think about.

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  7. I agree with Maneet that you have to make people feel involved, how can you keep enticing them? How about little teasers, such as giveaways? Also keep them informed of developments – make them feel part of the community and the team. But a great post

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  8. Great article and very informative.
    Definitely going to put some of your points into practise

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  9. I like the idea of setting clear and specific expectations. It’s true your staffs wanted to meet your interest and with that attitude they are undeniably contribute something relevant so it’s a good thing again to give them reasonable rewards. This article provides excellent insight for everyone. Thanks for the head’s up!

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