What is a Community? (And Why Your Facebook Page Might Not Be One)
By James Gallagher, Senior Social Media Manager at Keywords Studios.
There’s such a lovely sense of community around here.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard that phrase since moving to a leafy patch of North London.
I agree with the sentiment but I couldn’t explain why (despite having the word community in various job titles over 12 years). What’s the magic sauce that makes one section of the city more of a community than another?
When games developers and publishers talk about their ‘community’, often they are talking about everyone who plays their game. Or, at least, the sub-section of their players who follow or talk to them on social media — all of those Facebook fans, Twitter followers, folks on the forums and Twitch streamers make up The Community.
But when you’re playing a video game at home, alone — do you feel a lovely sense of community with everyone else playing that same game in their homes?
Or do we need to update our definition of community?
I also noticed that, in my neighbourhood, there were regular events organised by local residents. I found noticeboards in coffee shops promoting bake sales, plant sharing schemes, petitions against building developments and yoga groups.
Evidence of a community in action.
It struck me that collaboration is a key characteristic of a community. Otherwise, we’re just co-existing (as it felt in my inner-city tower block). And I can expand that to peer-to-peer collaboration because I’m talking about regular citizens working together, as opposed to working with a private business or the local council.
And for ‘a lovely sense of community’ to form, this collaboration has to happen regularly. If there had been a one-off group yoga session in 1998, I doubt people would be talking in coffee shops about the sense of community that it inspired.
And, finally, there has to be something that ties people together. A shared interest or a common goal, otherwise we’re all just collaborating and not knowing why.
So here’s my updated definition of community:
Ongoing peer-to-peer collaboration around a shared interest.
The Differences Between Audiences and Communities
With a working definition of community, we at Keywords Player Support can better identify our clients’ communities and develop strategies to meet their needs.
If your players are collaborating around your game, and that’s happening persistently, then high five — you have a community!
When you’re broadcasting a message or a piece of content to many people (like on Facebook or Twitter), then you’re speaking to your audience.
There’s nothing wrong with having an audience, of course. Your community will almost always be a section of a much larger audience. The distinction simply allows us to be smarter with our content strategy — what we post, where, and when.
Audiences want content. Communities want material.
Your audience wants an edited video interview with the game director. Your community wants to chat with the game director on Discord.
Your audience wants a slick trailer explaining a new feature. Your community wants uncut gameplay so they can work it out for themselves.
Your audience wants you to fix their customer support issue. Your community wants you to be transparent so that they can help themselves and each other.
How to Inspire Ongoing Peer-to-Peer Collaboration
Let me refer back to the bake sales that added to the lovely sense of community in my neighbourhood. The audience is all of the people that might attend the bake sale and buy cakes. The community is the sub-section of those people who contribute by baking the cakes.
The audience needs posters, newsletters, social media posts — fully fleshed-out content pieces that explain what’s going on and when.
The community needs recipes, ingredients, a WhatsApp Group, insider info on what a rival bake sale charged for their Bakewell tarts. Material that is going to fuel their ongoing collaboration.
If you’re working to grow your game’s community, think of ways you can inspire your players to collaborate. If they enjoy sharing fan art, give them an asset pack with layered files and transparent logos to get creative with. If fans love to cosplay as your characters then give them concept art that clearly shows detail on clothing, or 3D files so that they can print weapon replicas.
And most importantly: Make a space for the community to collaborate (or join in if they’ve created their own). Whether this is Discord, your forums, directly within your mobile app using GetSocial, or somewhere else, allow your community work with you and each another to define that space.
As the title suggests, the people commenting on your Facebook page probably isn’t a community. It’s still valuable as an audience and you should keep sharing content.
Just remember to set aside some of the raw materials for your community.
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Do you think that your Facebook Page is a community? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
Want to talk to James and the team? Visit Keywords Player Support to find out how we can help nurture your community.