Online Communities Vs. Community Organizing

The word “community” has become so trendy, that it’s important to clarify some key differences between sharing-based online communities and action-based community organizing. Often, the two are tightly connected and work together to build momentum towards an idea. However, some people confuse and/or conflate the two “community” terms and end up wasting time engaging in the wrong activity; the easier, albeit free one; without ever building the foundation. 

Online Communities

Online communities like Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn Groups, and Google Communities, are ideal places for people to socialize and share. They are typically “free” on ad-supported platforms and easy to set up. Anyone can set-up the basics of an online community in a few minutes. If you invite enough of the targeted audience, and are vigilant about keeping spam and trolls out of the group, the community will grow organically over time. Give people a clean, safe place to share and learn with a like-minded tribe and your group will continue to grow until you have to recruit volunteers to help manage it. You’ll need to prime the group with consistent posts and content that sets the example, but that should be obvious. Nobody wants to post to an empty community.

Online communities are a great way to both amplify your community organizing efforts, and provide a passive environment for your fans to stay connected without being asked to do much more than click pixels on a screen; perfect when you’re not actually recording or touring. Content sharing is the most obvious use of online communities, but savvy music organizers also use online communities to recruit more fans back to their own web sites where they ask for contact information. Connecting directly with your fans via their personal contact information is where community organizing begins …

Community Organizing

Community organizing is very goal-oriented. The concept comes from labor and political organizing where things tend to be specific and deadline driven; voter identification, registration deadlines, polling places, etc. The idea is to find and engage qualified people who are into your thing and ask them to get involved with their time and money. Instead of voters and polling places, musicians think fans and concert venues. Regardless the campaign, it can’t be accomplished without knowing who your audience is, and how to contact them. How can you plan a tour if you don’t know where your fans live? How do you text your fans when you’re in town if you don’t have their cell numbers?

Social media platforms get between you and your fans’ data. That’s how they make their money - selling your fan data back to you … but only on their own platform. Still no addresses or cell numbers. This fact alone makes social media platforms horrible as a primary community organizing hub. Worse, social platforms also clutter your fans’ experience with ads from corporations and competing entertainment options. Again, social media is great for amplifying what you’ve got going on with your own web site, but not as your main web presence. “Facebook Famous” doesn’t pay the bills without a real life community supporting the band. Socializing ≠ organizing. #organize