This morning I sat down over tea and cookies with two of the most interesting, creative and smart people I know. We’ve all been friends for years and years – since I was just a wide-eyed kid embarking on my first real TV job.

My friend’s basement office was like some sort of secret lair, a place where you just know big plans are being made. We huddled over our shortbread. A large painting of our host was oddly juxtaposed behind him. The striking likeness watched over our conversation with interest, as the real man sat in front. It was at once surreal and familiar. We sat, sipping, and mulled over our own big plans. The whole experience set me on the following stream of thoughts for the rest of the day.

One of the reasons why I am so interested and engaged with social media is because it revolves around the central theme of community. Whether you are building social media strategies for multimillion dollar companies, or creating a personal blog about your passion, you are striving to achieve the same thing – to build a strong, thriving community around something people care about.

It baffles me that so many people look at community as being some kind of bold new concept, especially in conversations around social media. They talk about community building, community management, community awareness…as if it’s the next big thing, the next new wave. They totally over complicate the process, and the entire point  of community gets lost in translation. I’m as guilty as the next person of getting caught up in the fad of community – especially as it relates to the online world.

Community isn’t new. Community has been around as long as we have. Communities are not created by tools or technology…they are created by people. My two friends helped me to remember this today.

One of my friends is working on building a new community. My other friend (the guy with the secret lair) has been building communities for years. Both of them are really really good at it. They’ve got it cased. Not only do they know how to build a community, they know how to make it strong. It doesn’t matter what kinds of communities they are building. What matters is that they aren’t getting caught up in the process or the buzzwords or the tools. They are just doing it. Want their secret? Well, okay then.

  1. Surround yourself with smart, passionate people. Then, you never have to worry that there won’t be anyone around to help.
  2. Just because someone has different tastes, doesn’t mean they don’t belong in your community. Give everyone a chance to try it out. A strong community is a diverse community.
  3. Strong communities have great leaders. Great leaders have strong communities.
  4. A community doesn’t take work. It takes passionate people who care about making it work.

Sometimes I think we get so caught up in the technology and the next big thing, that we forget that really it comes down to people. It’s not hard to build a community. What’s hard is putting aside the gizmos for a bit and focusing on what kind of community you want to build. And then, just getting out there and building the darn thing.

Thanks, two friends!