Watch out for the community ideas trap

☀️ One of the wonderful things about community are all the amazing possibilities.

There are so many things we could do!

So many great ideas to make our world a better place.

They'd all be great and be so valuable, if we could just get them to work.

IF only.

New community ideas are distracting

☀️ One of the hardest things about community are all the amazing possibilities.

In the excitement of new community ideas we can forget about the negative impact.

New community ideas are:

  • notoriously hard to get off the ground
  • prone to failing
  • no real connection to existing work
  • need time to mature
  • are often actually not that valuable
  • exhausting
  • distracting
  • clutter and overwhelm the user experience
  • taking you away from the real work

Of course, take this perspective with a pinch of salt. This doesn't mean all ideas are bad. It's more that we should be aware of the downsides of them too.

The reality is community ideas are great until you realise the work you truly have to do to get them off the ground AND bring value.

Before you adopt a new community idea...

I have to admit I'm a sucker for new community ideas. It gets me into trouble. Though it does also take me places. It's hard to find the balance.

Before jumping into a new community idea, consider the following:

✨ Prototype the community idea

A community prototype could exist in many different ways, for example:

  • Before starting a new channel for conversations, start some discussions around your ideas first.
  • Before launching a new channel, create a private one and share it with the team of core members.
  • Before committing to a series of content, create one piece and evaluate the success.

I personally love prototyping because it helps me see things in action. Maybe I'm more of a visual person. Once something exists more ideas come to me about how it should exist and be improved.

✨ Don't start a new community idea unless it builds upon your community flywheel

I'm a huge fan of visualizing community and growth through community flywheels.

The reality of life is that new ideas are notoriously hard to get off the ground. It makes sense to build upon what we have.

It's tempting to start new newsletters, blogs, podcast, streams, catch my drift. Each of these things on their own is a huge undertaking.

When you have a community idea, how does it build upon what you have?

  • If a newsletter is your thing, will it grow?
  • Does it support and fit within your overall community experience?
  • Will it complement the search and navigation?
  • Will it bring people into the community you already have?
  • Will it increase your existing reach?
  • Will it bring insights and value for your community?

You want yes's to these types of questions. Be concerned if you are answering no.

✨ Don't start a new community idea unless it leads to what makes business sense

I've written before about my distaste on an unhealthy focus on "Community ROI" and how I prefer focusing on whether something makes business sense.

We should also ask if this community idea makes business sense. How can you explain it to your boss? or your CEO?

How can you show you are addressing both the community and business needs? What feedback are you getting from other parts of the business in how your idea could serve or support them?

And what is this idea stopping you from doing? What is more important?

Community ideas that aren't backed by the business are bad community ideas.

✨ How does your community idea fit into the long-term picture?

Community debt is a real thing. Every community idea needs a place to exist.

In the early days of community it can be easy to make those decisions. However, as the community grows everything starts to become more complex. Priorities change and things become harder to find.

Knowing that this day may come may help you make better decisions about what community ideas to adopt. Picture yourself in the future doing the grunt work that maintains your community idea. Is it worth it?

Embrace the community ideas!

I love adopting and doing new things. It really does bring energy into the communities we build.

I do think the great ideas we end up building usually start with something small. Or a small addition to what we have. The best ideas evolve over time. We practice to see what works. We figure out processes to keep that beautiful flywheel spinning. And we know that our time is well spent.

What looks like one great community idea to the observers is likely to be a combination of many. We must remember that.

I don't want to put people off trying new things, I do like to help people avoid unnecessary pain. 🐌

How can we build better communities?

We are on a quest to learn and explore what makes great communities.


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