A couple years ago, I joined up with an online community that essentially dedicated its entire use of social media to humor writing. Mostly on Twitter, sure, but this group has creative endeavors outside the service – editors at legitimate news services, TV writers, cartoonists, ad copywriters, bloggers, authors. Most are in a creative career of some kind; others are simply cube warriors longing for an absurdist, 140-character escape.
This community has grown over the years, and what has come out of it are real-life friendships, serious relationships, business partnerships, and all the negative and positive things that develop from human interaction.
Yet every time I look at what has made this community grow and glue together (or tear apart in places, as any community will do) has been the concept of feedback, and I don’t use that term simply because that’s the name of this company. You can trace this mini society back to a site called Favrd. Now defunct, Favrd essentially turned Twitter’s “favorites” starring feature into a button that said “That’s funny.” If a tweet made you laugh, you starred it. Favrd collected these stars, then ranked the funniest tweets of the day onto a leaderboard (the site was eventually gamed by a few bad apples and taken down by the creator after all sorts of drama, but that’s a different story). But it was addicting: You wanted to know which jokes worked, which ones didn’t, and who liked it. And then you got to know the people who liked your jokes.
Point, please? A successful online community – one where people congeal together, interact, learn and share – must have such a “liking” feature, or some form of feedback that will keep people coming back again and again. It’s a concept that those of us in the public relations and mass communications industries should take to heart. In fact, you can probably track the beginnings of Facebook’s meteoric rise to 500 million to the February 2009 introduction of the “Like” feature. That was really the first time, aside from typing comments, that the site really allowed its users to give instantaneous feedback.
Of course, this concept of “liking” isn’t new, and it’s not found in the latest social media darlings. Stock traders give feedback and get their comments ranked on Nasdaq.com’s social networking service. Think feedback methods in fantasy football, online role-playing games, Digg, Reddit, or even simple message boards. Think about it: Feedback keeps people coming back to a website or mobile service again and again.
The key is creating a place where people can be effectively rewarded.
For an online community to work, and to keep people coming back to it, it must be able to offer feedback. All the successful websites today feed on the human psyche: The one thing anyone wants is to be accepted, to be loved, liked, hearted, starred, whatever term you choose. In a successful community, online or otherwise, this must be a constant.