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Alex Berger

I gained amazing insights into social structure and community building in my time playing massively multiplayer games as a "guild" leader. While the setting is different the core factors involved are not.

* What questions do you need to ask to guide your online community building strategy?
-1. What is the web competency of your average targeted community member.
-2. How much time can you dedicate to encouraging community bonding/off topic banter. Sometimes just talking about the issues isn't enough. Never underestimate an active off topic section. It humanizes the experience.

* How do you encourage community participation?
-1. Fake activity until you make it. Give people a reason to come back, and in the community elements (I suggest forums) recruit one or two active posters to regularly discuss and comment on new material.
-2. Be wary of clique behavior. It always forms, and can be detrimental to community growth and health. Paramount that the old guard welcomes the new guard.

* What are the best practices for network weaving (one-on-one interaction with your community members)?
-1. Make it personal. Ask for their stories, their input, their thoughts. Emphasize their importance to the community and allow them to run with projects and to be creative. Everyone wants to contribute and to make something better/leave a lasting mark.
-2. Humanize your leaders. Make them available. If the members feel like the community is very hierarchical they will want to work their way up, but may not have the energy to put in the time. People are always awed by power, as a leader and organizer you have that power. Use it to energize your community.
-3. Play matchmaker. The leaders in the community should focus on putting people together with like ideas, interests etc. help them bridge the social interaction gap.

John Proffitt

Beth -- Thanks for pointing out this post to me. I just last week joined the new Triiibes group that Seth Godin is putting together. I'm hoping to learn some things there, but it's not clear I will. So far the Ning site for the book is PACKED with marketers, as far as I can tell. Seems like we need a different version of that site for nonprofit leaders, as I'm not trying to sell something to a tribe, I'm trying to serve it.

In any case, it's an interesting approach -- literally paying for admission (in an era when everything seems to be free). I'm considering doing the same thing at my nonprofit (a public broadcaster based in Anchorage).

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