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Nine Mantras of Building Virtual Communities

I wrote this a long time back (November 2002) focusing on email listservs/egroups, but thought it’s still relevant these days with more and more people online and Facebook and Twitter and Linkedin becoming more and more popular

  1. Text matters like never before in the virtual world. Because when face to face richness is missing (Dr. Madhukar Shukla terms it the “reach vs richness debate”) you have to be very sure of what you write and what it could be interpreted as, as the person reading might not have the benefit of knowledge of your contexts.
  2. Communities in the networked world perhaps need a lot of investment with regard to time and effort , in my view perhaps more than social “real” communities.
  3. Virtual reputations might be different from ‘real’ ones, but they stick just as much.
  4. Giving more than recieving is the golden rule but seldom gets followed, as most people are in a recipient mode in such communities and don’t have an iota of clue about their influence or power.
  5. It takes a lot of guts to ‘say’ something publicly… and most people are uncomfortable doing that as it means taking a stand, and not just verbally. Your point of view is going in text format to hundreds and thousands of mail boxes, being read by people you might never meet. It is also going to be cached and searchable by search engines for posterity.
  6. Any lack of integrity on these listservs are sensed by people on these groups and even if they do not tell you on the face , the damage can be irrepairable.
  7. When in doubt , the Golden Rule continues to be “Honesty is the Best Policy”…saying “I don’t know” is a valued comment , because it is so rare.
  8. When you cannot help, redirect. On a lot of HR/OD/Trng egroups I come across a lot of “I need help regarding XYZ” kind of takes me a second to refer the person who queries to folks who are credible as well as prompt to reply.
  9. Time is the essence. No point answering someone’s query after 3 days..the time you could have built your impact is passe…for making an impact it has to be immediate