Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Online Community Building Strategy: Good Advice From Nancy White

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Building an online community is in my opinion the best investment you can make toward guaranteeing yourself greater influence, authority and opportunity for business. But how easy is it to build a thriving online community?

Photo credit: Robin Good

As a matter of fact, the questions that zip through my mind everytime I think of how I can improve my own skills at community building, are so many that I always end up with more unanswered doubts than solutions.

  • How do you nurture engagement inside your community?
  • How do you keep the community going?
  • How do you get people to socialize inside a new community?

To get some answers to these critical questions, I have briefly taken hostage online facilitation and community-building expert Nancy White during her last Rome visit, a few days ago.Nancy is a truly experienced person in this area and she always speaks out of the ongoing in-depth experience she has with real communities, both online and in real life. Her answers are non-technical, pragmatical, and if you are not into community building yet, quite enlightening.

In this two-part video interview on community-building Nancy White responds first to a group of questions focusing on community engagement, socialization and trust.

In part 2, next week, she will address technology choice and the idiosyncrasies of groups vs networks interactions.

If you are getting into community-building seriously, here's Nancy's good advice:


How To Nurture Community Engagement - Nancy White

Duration: 1' 30''

Full English Text Transcription

Nancy White: There is a couple of pieces of advice.

One is get good at asking questions. Because if you say everything you know, then people go: "OK, that's good. I'm done." But questions are a natural way for humans to interact. And this is whether you are face-to-face or whether you are online.

You ask me a question, you engage me. I want to answer, I want to respond.

And I think the next thing is think about the heartbeat of the community. Because people are busy, they often belong to many communities we call multi-membership. People can really tear apart their attention, and you think: "I'll do that later."

If you have little heartbeats, that keep the body going, keep the community going, that focus attentions.

So, it might be: "On Mondays we're going to share pictures of our food, or on Tuesdays we're going to share the rest of pictures of our food". That's a little too close together, but you get the point.

The point is you make a little offers that are easy to accept. Small things. So that I can do it in a few minutes.

Once people started engaging in that way, then relationship may build if it's a relationship-oriented community - some are really informational.

I don't care that I like Luca or Robin Good. Really what I want to do is to get to know you first and then you do things that help people engage in relationship. But it has to have value to them.

One of the things people say when they want to set up a community, is that they're already a community, that they're engaged in. maybe you're competing.

There is things that are more important than what you're offering. You're competing.

Sometimes no response means: "Why are we supposed to have a community?"


How To Keep The Community Going - Nancy White

Duration: 0' 34''

Full English Text Transcription

Nancy White: I can't wait to talk to the people again. I can't wait to see what's happening.

I've got to check out my email, or my logon, or my Twitter. Because you care about the people, or you care about the issue, or both.

The community is really important to me. I learned from but I've also met face-to-face with many people, so they're my friends.

For me the intersection between professional, and personal is really positive, I like it. For other people the separation is important, but you got to find what matters to you. And then, keep going.


Get People To Socialize Inside A Community - Nancy White

Duration: 0' 47''

Full English Text Transcription

Nancy White: One of the things I find, is sometimes a synchronous event will help people get to socialize a little bit faster.

A scheduled chat or a web meeting and we're going just do some things that you could re-create the things you've done offline.

One really simple thing I do in a synchronous meeting to get people started is saying: "Tell me just three words about yourself". Just three words.

It's not a big risk, like I said members are little asked, it doesn't take too much thinking. And then people start noticing patterns between them.

Like you sad, you like trees and I said I like bushes, and pretty soon we're talking about plants.

It's those little intersections that make it safe, because If I had this big video speech about who I am... I don't want to give you that.

I want to give you just one layer of the onion and not all layers at once.


Ease of Losing Community Trust - Nancy White

Duration: 1' 15''

Full English Text Transcription

Nancy White: I think when we have relationships that are based on content, it's easier to ignore them.

If you think about the network world: if I encounter a node that I like, I'll spend time around it. So, I find on Twitter a bunch of people tweeting about something that just is absolutely what I need right now. I'm going to associate. I'm going to follow those people.

I'm going to listen to their tweets that aren't about the thing I am interested in. I'm going to find more about him. But if also they start talking about something that it's not interesting to me, I'm gone.

The relationship is around trusting around content, or around an issue. It's not a longer-enduring bond.

There's great deal of utility from this conversation. But it comes and goes very freely. And there's times in our lies when that's what we need, and there's times when we also need the persistent conversation, the conversation that we keep going even when it gets rough or we fight with each other. I wonder about that balance in this world.

Are we going to a network with being where we have many light relationships and very few deep relationships? Or are we going to deepen relationships in a network as we figure out how to do that? Because it is kind of a new way of being with each other.

Robin Good: Yes

Nancy White: Does that make any sense?


Digital Identity Issues Inside a Community - Nancy White

Duration: 0' 50''

Full English Text Transcription

Nancy White: The question is: "Do you have a sense of why therefore they're using their first name and..."

Robin Good: Because they've gone around and they see that everybody uses "Spitfire134" and so...

Nancy White: I think a lot of us are just beginning to understand about digital identity.

It's a new thing, so sometimes a conversation about digital identity can help people understand when they want to use an anonymous name and when it's good to use their real name.

One of the things - like I said - is if you're doing this to build your professional knowledge, of course you want to use a real name, because that's your professional identity and then maybe some things where you don't want your identity.

I don't want anybody to know that I'm in chocoholics anonymous. I might be found out.

Originally recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia, and first published on July 29th, 2009 as "Online Community Building Strategy: Good Advice From Nancy White".

About the author


Nancy White is an online facilitation and community-building expert. Nancy is the owner of Full Circle Associates, a company that develops collaboration and facilitation strategies, communications, planning and Internet collaboration solutions for non-profits, organizations and businesses.

Robin Good -
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Wednesday, July 29 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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