Communities: I’m a Firestarter (Twisted Firestarter)

Hearing the Prodigy’s “Firestarter” again recently inspired this short blog. “Firestarter” is often what I feel like when asked by clients to start and maintain their online communities. I enjoy the work very much, but feel a little “twisted” in the early stages of the development of each one.

Here’s why. How many online communities are you “part of” but rarely frequent? How often have you started to participate online in a group and then let your efforts wither? The truth is that it’s hard for people to change their online habits in the hurly burly of the daily routine. They start with the best of intentions but without active reminders to participate they simply won’t.

So, while I am the last person on earth to call for more email, usually the simplest answer is best. This is why we have found that a concise but regular “Firestarter” of communication via good old fashioned email to community members is a necessary short-term evil for getting momentum.

In order to start the fire without causing aggravation among those you are trying to reach I set myself 3 rules.

  1. Recipients will be low on time and tolerance, so make your message clear and brief. You have to get your message across quickly – and the more targeted you can make it the better.
  2. Encourage a specific action as a result of reading the email, rather than just imparting general information.
  3. Once 1) and 2) start to deliver increased traffic and participation, taper down the frequency of email – if new habits are becoming truly ingrained the community will start to become self-sustaining over time.

A “Firestarter” starts fires – they don’t need to fan the flames as well.

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