Nice timing Steven. Guy has some useful points about how to build communities around products and services that I think we can learn from. (Did you leave out the thunderbirds (#2) on purpose? I think it’s an excellent addition!) I do think Guy’s missing something there in terms of who’s ultimately “in control” of this process. Guy has business decision-makers and staff “creating a kick-ass community” around whatever product or service they have to offer (point one – create something worth organizing around). But to me, the people should come before the create. So, how about this for point one – identify your community and figure out what they need. In all of my thinking about community-building for libraries, I find myself squarely on the “we’re facilitators” side of things. We can’t create community – we can only facilitate.
Speaking of, I just finished this short article (thanks Alane) on “Building Brand Communities: how customer communities are transforming the way successful companies build their brands and business.” See the difference there? Customers transforming business, not the other way around. An excerpt:
Brands are relationships, not collections of marketing tactics…For companies that are building brand communities, the key driver of growth is not the abstract measurements of eyeballs, click throughs … but in recurring top-line revenue driven by the enthusiasm and longevity of customer relationships. The most successful companies breed lifelong affinities with their customers…(they) do it for an entire lifetime by constantly evolving the products and services they offer in support of that community. Successful community builders develop products and brands through a dialog that allows the customer to define their needs over time.
Again, the people come in before the products and services. Further, the products and services change as the community needs change. I love the idea of a library thinking about themselves as a community-based (not service-based) brand. I think there’s a lot to work with here, as long as week keep our eyes on the prize: it’s the people, not the products or services we offer.
What is your library’s brand? Or, what does your community think about when they hear “library”?