Everybody in the marketing world talks about community. At one point, community had a real meaning. We used to live in places that felt like communities. We interacted with other people in our neighborhood, talked to them daily, our little place in the world had the feel of a community. The little store next door. The neighbor we chatted with for a few minutes. Kids driving their bikes down the street. Block parties. Remember those times?

When we started to develop digital landmarks, we created communities grouped around shared passions. And we called those ‘online communities’. That felt real because people lived in those places, sought them out actively and particiapted. It had a communal feel to it.

Over time, everything changed.

The word ‘community’ became meaningless.

Suddenly, any message board, Facebook page or Twitter feed was called a community.

Let me give it to you straight:

– A Facebook page with a lot of ‘likes’ is not a community. It’s just a Facebook page with a lot of ‘likes’.

– A Twitter feed with a lot of followers is not a community. It’s just a Twitter feed with a lot of followers.

There’s a huge difference between a community and an aggregation of people with weak ties.

You can live in a neighborhood and never talk to your neighbors, never know what makes them tick, never care if the store next door will survive in tough economic times. All these people are just neighbors. Nothing more. Just because you live in the same neighborhood (in real life or on your social media platforms) doesn’t mean you’re part of a community.

Community is about a shared passion. Community has context. Community consists of meaningful interactions. When you develop all of these, you have a community.

Communities can’t be created.

People create communities, and unless you have some secret sauce I don’t know about, you can’t create people. You can build digital landmarks and social platforms for people to create their own community. You can develop the infrastructure. The passion, love, heart, blood, sweat and tears is up to people. Not you.

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