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Digital Vision report: building a community culture

Digital Vision winner Allison Saur applies her insight into Native American tribal practices to create a template for the construction and maintenance of culture in virtual communities.

In the second of her three reports, Digital Tribes II: Community Culture, released today, Saur describes the difference between community and audience building, and outlines specific tools for developing and strengthening a community through techniques such as creating shared narratives, values, belief systems, and ritual.

The following is an overview written by Saur outlining the second part of her series.

From social media users to best selling authors, ‘tribe’ has become a social marketing term that hints at a deeper human experience. As a Chickasaw Indian, my definition of tribe begins with my own heritage. The indigenous peoples of North America know a lot about community, identity and loyalty and have built cohesive groups that survived against great adversity. Native American tribal characteristics offer a substantial framework for building stronger, more fulfilling and highly committed online communities.

This report asserts that the popular social media marketing toolset builds large and engaged audiences, however it does not build communities. As an analogy, Blue Man Group has a large and engaged audience, but when the show is over and the entertainment has stopped, audience members go their separate ways. Blue Man Group does not have a community or tribe, but rather it has enthusiastic individual fans. Likewise, brands that practice good leadership, compelling, relevant content and engaging dialogue with their online fan base do not necessarily have a community. Tribal or otherwise, community comes from an entirely different set of tools and results in strong identification and enduring dedication. For a comparison of these toolsets, this report can be downloaded here.

Many of these community building tools fall under the second tribal Pillar of Culture. This article explores the Pillar of Culture, focusing on key techniques that support the development of group culture in the online space.

Despite an inherent human tendency toward community-specific culture development, culture is not easy to define. It tends to fall into the “we know it when we see it” category and people become very definitive on their culture, their way of life, when they feel it is threatened. A community culture cannot be created from whole cloth in a marketing department. Culture emerges, grows and develops over time. However, as marketers and community builders, we can be much more than passive observers. This report discusses specific tactics in the area of narrative creation, value system development and rituals. Deployment of these techniques support and encourage vibrant community culture, a culture that captivates and motivates its community members.

The first report in this series introduced the tribal framework for this Digital Vision project and the specific technique of Tribal Naming. It can be accessed here. The third and final report in the series will discuss the Organization Pillar. This Pillar starts with tribal examples to understand the role of governance, hierarchy and resource management in the cohesiveness of online communities in digital age.

Click here to download the second report in the series, Digital Tribes II: Community Culture

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