Discover more from another random community newsletter :)
Do You Really Need To Start Your Own Community?
Is This Space All Shiny And Bright?
One trend that I have seen rising rapidly over the last three years is people starting new communities to solve challenges they have been facing. Personally speaking, I am very fond of participating in a variety of communities. They have helped tackle various problems on both personal and professional fronts and provided me with access to some immensely talented and passionate individuals to collaborate with. However, this trend warrants several concerns, the biggest being whether existing communities aren’t enough anymore.
Therefore, in this newsletter issue, I’ll discuss when someone should build their own community, the drawbacks of building a community, and whether this is an activity worth investing time in.
Disclaimer: This issue is aimed explicitly at independent communities, not brand or product-centric ones. Also, this is contextual knowledge based on experience. Please be mindful as you apply this for yourself.
Why Has There Been A Drastically Growing Number Of Communities?
To understand when it is necessary to build a community, we first need to understand what communities are.
In simple words, a community is a gathering that brings together people from different places, experiences, and walks of life to come together and either work towards a specific shared problem or help fulfill a common aim.
This definition has one gap, however. It says nothing about how many different gatherings or groups there should be for the same challenge. Ideally, you should only need to develop a new community for the same challenge when such existing communities are inaccessible. Many regional communities were formed this way, which still see collaborations due to virtual tools, thus enabling a positive learning experience and growth for all folks participating.
There is a dark side to community building, too.
The observed positive impact of communities since the pandemic began has driven a lot of people to start their communities for various reasons, mostly personal and sometimes exploitative, such as
Enforcing a false sense of authority
Architecting the facade of an influencer to rope in brands
Showcasing “ownership” of a community to the outer world
Building manipulative echo chambers
Creating an unnecessary fear of missing out (only to drive engagement)
These are just a few out of many more such possible reasons!
This leads to an equally major problem: a community agenda that does not prioritize the growth and support of the community members. However, because the leaders of such communities tend to see their personal brands grow, they continue such actions. This can lead to severe repercussions within the larger community, the worst being that such individuals further inspire a new generation of community builders on flawed tenets.
What Building And Running Your Community Takes From You
If you are trying to build a new community, you must keep in mind that for all the right reasons to build a community, there are costs as well. Those costs include:
Building a community is a time-consuming process. Whether you’re currently in school or working full-time, it will take away from your personal time, i.e., time you spend on hobbies, relaxation, with your family and friends, etc.
Certain community efforts, such as meetups, have operational costs for various areas such as food, AV, logistics, etc. Sometimes, finding sponsors for such efforts is possible, but not always. At the end of the day, the responsibility will fall on you to sustain the community, and that may mean some necessary investment.
Uncertainty of success
Communities are a subjective experience for everyone participating across any level, whether as a member, contributor, supporter, or organizer. Therefore, even with the proper planning and efforts, the planned outcome is sometimes not achieved. This can cause an emotional toll and increase stress.
Burden of expectations
As a community builder, your participants will expect you to maintain a certain experience or activity level. They will expect you to take ownership of consistent value creation. Such expectations add pressure. And if you fail to meet them, they will result in criticism, which can affect your mental health.
Lack of recognition
A good bit of your work as a community builder is “behind-the-scenes” work. As crucial as it is, the effort will not always be visible and will not lead to appreciation or recognition. This is often a thankless responsibility, unfortunately.
As an independent community builder, your work will occur outside of your daily life and responsibilities. This constant demand to engage with your community and create value for them, if not balanced properly, will lead to a state of burnout.
Is This Worth Investing Your Time In?
It is necessary to remember that these costs, while challenging to tackle, can be mitigated. Having a sound support system in the form of peers, setting clear personal boundaries, and seeking assistance when necessary are all ways to manage such issues.
Building and supporting communities is not a waste of time. There is a substantial positive impact you can make on a lot of people through such entities. However, it is necessary to remember that you don’t need to dive head-first into the world of community building just because someone else is. Please only do so when you have a strong reason and necessity to build one. Otherwise, it is better to participate in other communities and support them rather than make a hollow and shallow institution just for the sake of doing so.