David Spinks loves community. He’s all about community and he’s got a track record that proves it. He’s a serial entrepreneur-his latest company is Feast, an online cooking education site (he’s not just the founder, but also an avid participant – and I should know I took the launch class).
His other enterprises include BlogDash and The Community Manager where he still actively writes.
David Spinks is nimble, smart, funny, chic and charming. We’ve stayed in touch over the years and I can say with conviction that he’s compelling and passionate. Check out my interview with him below.
In this day of the word “community” being over used, what does community mean to David Spinks?
Creating relationships between people around a common interest or belief. It’s many to many, not one to many.
Can every company grow and maintain community? I mean are they really capable? Do consumers have affinity for being a part of say a car dealer’s community or even a car company’s community?
Can they? Yes. Every business is solving a problem for a specific kind of person which means that their customers share something in common and a conversation can be created around that commonality.
The better question is SHOULD every company focus on community? I don’t think so. Having lived in the startup world for some time now, I’ve learned how to make the most out of limited resources, and that’s by cutting out anything that isn’t core to the success or failure of your business.
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Community can be an extremely effective tool for increasing engagement, reducing customer service overhead, building a strong brand and learning quickly from your customers. All of those things CAN be achieved with other strategies though, and it’s up to you to decide if community is the best use of your time.
The reality is, community isn’t a short term play. It’s a long term play. You may not see results right away. And you shouldn’t build a community “just because”. Most companies building community have no idea why they’re doing it.
Is there a difference between a social media community and a real world community?
Good question. I don’t think online community and social media are one in the same, so I’ll answer the question as online community vs offline.
Sure there’s a difference. The personal real-world interaction is really powerful. I don’t think anything will ever replace it. The relationships formed when people spend time together in the real world can be unbelievably strong. Relationships online can definitely be strong, but they lack the same level of emotion.
I love the idea of communities coming together both online and offline. So you can create really powerful relationships between people and then have it carry over to the online platform.
Let’s use Lady Gaga as an example. What’s the difference between her Facebook play, her private community and the millions that come together for her events and meet ups?
I’m not too familiar with that particular community but I think I have a good idea of the distinction. I think it’s about the level of emotion that goes into the relationships. Also, community can be pretty vain. People like to feel special and the more private or personal the community is, the stronger the emotional connection.
So Facebook: low level of exclusivity and low user to user interaction. This is less of a community and more of an audience.
Private group: high level of exclusivity and if there is a high network density (members building relationships with each other) then this is an actual community. People are getting to know each other, and are forming relationships around their common interests/beliefs.
Meet ups: if they’re private, then this may be the highest caliber of community. If they’re not exclusive, it can still create a strong community, assuming that the interaction is ongoing. Community, in order to be healthy, has to be ongoing. So if it’s a one off interaction, and then no interaction after the event, then the community no longer exists.
How will community change for brands over the next 5 years?
We’re going to see new tools come out that will give more data around user-to-user interaction. Network density will become trackable and you’ll be able to be more methodical in how you create a healthy community.
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I think we’re also due for the next evolution of the forum. No one has figured it out yet but it’s ripe for the taking. Facebook groups are the best option, but Facebook hasn’t innovated on groups in a while. So keep an eye out for a new kind of community tool that will make it much easier for you to bring your users together in a simple conversation platform.
What’s your cocktail of choice?
Bourbon, neat (=
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
I love grilling up burgers that I make from scratch.
Follow David Spinks on Twitter, he’s @DavidSpinks.
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