Community is the new viral

The vices of strategic and creative thinking are like an onion. They have multiple layers, and if you cut through them you might just cry.

It’s common to confuse the very definition of something with a manifestation of its own success. As we all know by now, there’s no such thing as a viral piece of content, but in fact something that has a chance to go viral. Going viral is something that happens to the manifestation of a social object, not something that defines it before it’s even published. People are realizing that now.

But like a good onion, there’s always a new layer with the taste of this vice, the vice of confusing what is with what becomes. I believe we’re shifting that logic now to what we call a community. My colleague and friend Daniel Caeiro put it far better than I possibly can:

A community is our wishful thinking. It’s our burning desire. It’s what we rarely achieve. And if we continue to give out prizes in return of “fans”, if we keep stacking up numbers what we’ll get is a crowd.

Community, according to this vice, is the new viral. We now don’t just speak of a social media presence (an expression I disagree with), but we speak of creating communities. As if, by definition, we could easily spark the genuine gathering of people around a topic of interest. The problem with community is the same as with viral: there are tactics one can and should use, but community isn't an objective, it's a consequence. We don't create communities, we merely enable people to gather around a place that might just become a community (and most of the times doesn’t).

Semantics helps a big deal when thinking about this stuff. Words aren’t just words, they are carriers of meaning that lead us to priming and implant specific images in our mind (which can blur our true goals). So for our own sake and safety, we shouldn’t promise a community because we simply can’t guarantee a community will emerge. At the very limit, we can promise to help and inspire people in a way that is thoughtful and insightful. If we do that right, the community part will follow.