Your Database Is Not Your Community (Friday Quote)

OC_coverThis edition of the Friday quote is not from Humanize–it’s from Open Community: A Little Book of Big Ideas for Associations Navigating the Social Web, by Lindy Dreyer and Maddie Grant. This book came out in 2010 (a lifetime ago in social media years), and it never got the attention it deserves, in my opinion. And these days, with associations big and small leaping into creating their own online communities, I think it’s a good time to pull this book out (or oder it!), because the lessons in there I think will make the difference between success and mediocrity.

The quote gets at what I often see associations doing: focusing on the technology, and not the human component (p. 101):

It’s tempting to think you can take your database, plug it into one of those cool social networking programs, and–voila!–online community. Nope. Doesn’t work that way. Open community is in the connections, the interactions, the love that the people in your ecosystem share. You have people in your database who will never be a a true part of your community online. And there are people who are not in your database (yet) who may end up being central to your community online.

…All that said, sometimes the best thing you can do is forget what you know. For many associations, building community online opens up a lot of possibilities that members never imagined. Some of the assumptions staff have long held are breaking down–your members might just surprise you.

This applies equally to for profit companies, by the way.