All year long, we talk about building community and the impact that active communities can have on our organizations. However, sometimes the concepts and benefits that community strategies deliver can feel a bit abstract.
To make community management more concrete, it can be helpful to pull lessons from the communities around us every day, and at no other time of year are communities more valuable than the holidays.
To start us off, what are communities? Well, luckily for us community consultancy, FeverBee, has already laid out a great framework for defining types of communities across a broad spectrum.
Here is FeverBee's classification of communities:
You can classify every type of community by the purpose that brings them together.
In essence, communities are any groups centered around an interest, action, place, practice or circumstance, that come together to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and that share common values, experiences, or goals. This is what creates a sense of community.
So, all that being said, here are great places that you can go to glean community-building tips.
One of the most overlooked communities is the family. Families are often spread out over the country or even within a state, but when the holidays come around they come together to celebrate.
When they get together they engage in family rituals like setting up the Christmas tree, or having a family meal. Each family is made up of shared experiences which pulls them together and strengthens their bond.
It's these factors that cause each member of the family to feel like they're a part of something bigger than themselves by being an active participant of that family.
When I was little, my parents would drive me around to the nearby neighborhoods around the holidays, and we would look at all of the different lights and displays that people would put up. But what we noticed, was that there seemed to be some neighborhoods in particular where all of the houses had amazing displays.
This is another example of community building. The people within these neighborhoods came together to celebrate their neighborhood. It was an act of pride and passion for their neighborhood community. They all came together and put in the effort to build a neighborhood that others came to admire. This undoubtedly created a sense of community within the neighborhood.
Every year around the holidays, my family, and many other families, come together and donate our time and resources to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
We come together to donate food, clothing, toys, etc. to ensure that everyone gets to experience the joy of the holidays, even if they can't afford to on their own.
The group that gets together to do this share common values, and we are all trying to accomplish the same goal. It is by doing so that we contribute to a cause greater than our own, and build community.
Throughout the US and parts of Europe, are what are known as Christmas Cities. These cities go, what some might consider to be, a bit overboard when it comes to the Christmas decorations. These are cities like Prescott, AZ, Ogden, UT, or Branson, MO.
Much like the example of the neighborhoods that come together to light up their community, these cities come together to do pretty much the same thing, only on a much larger scale.
Another example of communities that emerge during the holidays, is that of the movie-goers. Every year there are a string of releases around the holidays or on Christmas itself. A lot of families have built this into their family holiday ritual and attend a movie on Christmas every year.
Once they get to the theater, they are surrounded by like-minded people who share this common interest and tradition. It is during this time that they become a part of something bigger than themselves, they become part of the community of holiday movie-goers.
Just as going to the movies is a community in the way that it is a single hyped event that ends up being shared by a massive amount of people, so are the shopping extravaganzas that come with the holidays.
Every year friends, families and strangers come together to face early mornings and crowds to get the best deals. These events are hyped up weeks or months ahead of time, and you can feel the excitement in the air as you wait outside in the brisk early morning air. Why would anyone be crazy enough to do such a thing? Well, how else are you going to score a $200 60â€ big screen?
However you feel about these days devoted to shopping, on these days, an enormous amount of people come out to score some great deals on gifts for friends and family at unbeatable prices, and share in many common experiences that tie them together along the way.
Online community managers can learn a lot by observing the communities that surround us every day.
These communities are no more apparent than at the holidays. Whether you're getting together with your family, helping to make sure that a less fortunate family gets a holiday meal, or going out to see the new Star Wars movie, you will be taking part, or sharing in something bigger than just yourself, and that is something that should be both recognized, learned from, and celebrated.