The three most important parameters. The mission, the tools and social norms

An online community is a product in itself. Community manager’s goal is to make sure that it provides enough value to the end users regardless of any third-party factors. The value that people get from participating in an online community usually lies outside the physical world. These are a sense of belonging, feeling of unity, the pleasure of being able to share ideas with the same minded people who appreciate it, etc. If one wants to create a successful community, they first need to focus on maximizing these values.

From the product perspective an online community can be characterized by the three most important parameters: the mission, tools and social norms.

  1. The mission is the unique value proposition of a community. It provides an answer to “why” people should join the community. It helps a community manager to unite a diverse group of people into one efficient entity.

  2. The tools, the software that the users have, determines “how” people form groups on your platform, manage them and achieve the mission.

  3. Social norms define the “rules of the game” and the culture of a community.

Mission, tools, norms are listed in order of their importance for the success of a community. Having a compelling mission that will allow you to get a critical mass of passionate people is the bare minimum requirement. Without a mission nothing else matters. The next step is to identify the tools that users need to achieve the mission. Tools determine what opportunities for interaction between each other users have. Without the proper tools, the community will not be effective. At the same time, the tools do not fully determine the behaviors in a group. Different communities using the same software can have completely different cultures, which is determined by the social norms of a group.