Why Community Building is a Balancing Act?
People tend to easily feel left out, like there is a glass barrier keeping them apart from others. This is especially true online. In order to achieve successful community building, you need to actively work at helping people come together. The Internet can help you separate out the time and space aspects of coming together, but you still need to have a meeting of minds and, preferably, also hearts.
Your raison d’etre
Building a strong online community starts with having a clear purpose. People need a good reason to come together and keep coming together. Some common reasons for having a community include the desire to share information about a hobby, the need for support for a problem they have in common, and the need to reach out to others in the same line of work.
The purpose needs to be narrow enough to have some focus, but broad enough to attract a variety of people and generate regular discussion. Some people stumble upon just the right amount of focus. Others need to work at. It helps to put a little thought into this at the start. It can also help to be willing to tweak things as you go along. Sometimes, things just won’t be clear without a little experience.
Building community connections
But, having a purpose is insufficient to actually breathe life into an online community. It can be like having a body but no soul. In order to give life to the community, you have to build personal connections. People have to feel reasonably safe and comfortable talking with each other.
The best way to foster those personal connections is to build in some space for getting to know each other as people. If you are too strict about wanting discussion to stay on topic all the time, you will not have much discussion. On the other hand, if you are too free-wheeling, it becomes anarchy and people lose interest.
It can really help to have a designated space or procedure. On a bulletin board, you can have an off-topic forum where it is acceptable to do things like wish people happy birthday and generally shoot the breeze. On an email list, you can have some traditions for having off-topic discussions with specific subject lines. That can help people bond without feeling imposed upon.
Just like with finding a focus, community building is a balancing act. You want people to bond, but not too much. Especially if it is something professional, you want this to be just the right amount of personal connection, not too much and not too little.