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Beware the Compare
Don't be fooled by the final form
The last time we chatted, I shared some thoughts on being imperfect when building community. I hope it was helpful, but there is another important thing to remember in the pursuit of imperfection: "Beware the Compare."
Let's take a step back. What would you have come up with if I asked you to build a TV in 1978? Would you have looked at all the other big boxy cathode TVs and done your own version? Do you know in 1978, the first LCD panel was built? It was the beginning of death for CRT Televisions. However, it wasn't until the mid-2000s that buying anything than a flat screen was the norm. It's easy now to think it's always been that way.
There are countless examples throughout history where comparison was fraught with issues, and the community-building industry is no different. Frequently, I would have customers come to me and ask if we could help them build an exact copy of "X" community. They did not care to consider the influences, the company culture or the community's journey to its final form.
Being inspired or having aspirations is a good idea. However, when comparing your new community to someone else's, you take a step back and consider all the factors.
To help you, here are some questions you consider the next time you feel the need to compare yourself to another community:
Am I comparing just the aesthetic (colours, look, feel)? Does that look have any referencable part to our brand? How could we iterate on that?
Am I comparing the engagement of the community (i.e. lots of conversations and reactions)? What is the history of the company and their community? Was this just the latest iteration of continued connection?
Am I consdering more than platform? Where should we host our community - does it need to be the same solution, or are there better places for the connections to happen?
Am I looking at their investment? Does "my crush" have a dedicated community team and executives who buy in? What kind of internal support do they get for other employees? (Check the community to see who from the company engages & posts)
What was their timeline? Did it take months, years, or decades? Could I talk to the person who was in charge at the start? What steps did they take to get to today?
I guess the main lesson is to set your north star as the best version of your "community crush" in an iteration reflecting your community culture. However and most importantly, be kind in your aspirations and the timeline. Getting to a buzzing and thriving community takes time, support, and investment. When things seem bleak or take a while, having a clear vision to guide your progress will be crucial. And remember, next time it's your turn, the community you have today will be the envy of those tomorrow, but they won't see the work you put in.
Happy Community Building!
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