Six Conditions that Form Online Communities


Like a tornado, online communities only form under certain conditions. If you're looking to build an online community, understand that they are very difficult to build artificially. They seem to only emerge from natural conditions. Indeed, you can help them emerge, but you can't *create* them in my experience.

Below, are the 6 essential conditions that I've observed as necessary in building online communities. I think three to four of these conditions are the bare minimum for a reasonable chance. All six would guarantee that a community would form -- probably whether their Dr. Frankenstein of a creator liked it or not. 

The Six Conditions

I. The community creates a meeting place for people who didn't previously have a place to come together. This is probably the most powerful condition, as its very difficult to create a community if a larger one already exists somewhere else.

II.  A sense of shared ownership between the members of the community -- something they can point to, and say "this is ours -- and its worth defending".

III. At least one strong leader to keep conversations going. They lead in the sense that they set the tone for others to follow, but do so only by example -- they don't order people directly. This person is usually willing to devote an extraordinary amount of time to the effort.

IV. A shared identity among members. The may share a love of baseball, or want to dominate the shady underworld of hand modeling insurance policies. It doesn't matter what the goal is, as long as its felt that everyone shares it, and is passionate about it.

V. Members have an opportunity for personal gain: be it career, reputation, sex or education.

VI. The conversations within the community are entertaining in itself. Indeed, there doesn't need to be a goal; there just needs to be a doggy treat to keep people coming back.

While this list isn't complete, I can't think of anymore conditions. Can anyone else?