Is your community a restaurant or supermarket?

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Before you start a community, think of its audience and think of its purpose. It is like starting a location to provide people with something to eat: are you building a restaurant or a supermarket? Both facilitate the option of providing something to eat, however they do it in very different ways. The same goes […]

Before you start a community, think of its audience and think of its purpose. It is like starting a location to provide people with something to eat: are you building a restaurant or a supermarket? Both facilitate the option of providing something to eat, however they do it in very different ways. The same goes for communities: some are just supermarkets and some are restaurants.

A restaurant is a place where people most often spend time, not only to eat, but also to have a good time. Visitors of a restaurant are often known by name, especially when they reserved a table. To manage a restaurant properly you’ll have to focus on ensuring that people are having a good time: they should have a good experience. People don’t mind to pay for a visit, especially when they already know they will have a good experience. Sometimes eating even becomes secondary to the good experience.

On the other hand, people don’t go to a supermarket for a good experience, nor will they spend hours on end in it. Most often people won’t sit down in a supermarket, most supermarkets won’t even offer a place to sit down. One of the reasons that people go to a supermarket is to get out of it as soon as possible with their groceries. Task-completion is key.

When you are the facilitator of a comunity in which people pop-in regurlarly to get their knowledge or to get the things they need, do not manage it like a restaurant. People will get annoyed, since they don’t want to stay for hours, they just want task completion. The same goes the other way around: if you manage a community focussing on task completion, while people would rather have a chat with their friends or colleagues, they will easily get the feeling that they are not welcome.

Be aware of what kind of community you are managing. It doesn’t matter if it is a restaurant like or a supermarket like community. Both models add a lot of value to its members as long as you manage it the right way.

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Rick Mans is a social media evangelist within Capgemini. You can follow and connect with him via Twitter or Delicious

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