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Andy’s Answers: What makes communities work?

I love hearing stories of brands that have built successful, vibrant communities that — while thrilled they’re successful — still aren’t sure why exactly they work so well. Community members aren’t paid, they aren’t being showered with gifts and incentives, and there’s a million other places they could be spending their time. So why are they helping each other so much? What motivates them? Why are they showing up at all?

Behind all great communities are forces similar to those that drive great word of mouth. And while just building it doesn’t guarantee they’ll come, the more you can embrace these natural human tendencies the better odds you’ll have of creating something meaningful.

Three reasons communities work:

  • People are naturally good. It goes against most of the cynicism we’ve all been taught since Marketing 101, but the vast majority of people in the world are inherently good. They’re not out to tear things down, cause disruptions or break your forums. A handful are, sure — but empowering the good guys in your community makes it easy to drown these idiots out.
  • People love to help others. Call it karma, call it altruism — whatever term you prefer, people love to help strangers. Even though we all feel it, we’re continually surprised to see this quality in others.
  • People like to be connected. Humans are social creatures. We’re driven to build connections, to join groups and to extend our networks of “people like us.” Communities created around specific topics help us find others who share our interests.