Campfires. Not Communities.

The word “community” is quickly approaching over and misused status in this shiny social media and word of mouth industry. And it saddens me.  But don’t get me started on “social community.” What does that even mean? Isn’t the very definition of community a place where people (or things) are social?

Which brings me to my point:

Just because you get a bunch of people to sign up for your website or “like” you on Facebook, or even follow you on Twitter, doesn’t make it a community. So stop calling it one.

During my college years, I worked at a camp for four summers in a row. There were the various activities and events, but the night that really brought your cabin/teepee together was campfire night. You’d go out as a group and pick a spot in the woods to build your campfire and then hand out the ingredients for the s’mores. Everyone would pick out their marshmallow roasting stick and the bonding would begin. People would share. Open up. Talk about what really matters. It was always a powerful evening. Well, after the sugar rush wore off.

My point is that maybe we shouldn’t be concentrating on gathering communities, but starting campfires. At least it’ll force us to think about how we bring people together and what kind of interaction we want to have with them. Do you want just another personality-void gathering of random people or intimate groups of folks that are there to connect in a way that’s valuable to them (not you)?

Chew on it.


  • December 13, 2010

    John M. Hoyt

    Community is what you make of it. Here in the Upstate of SC, we have a thriving community, but what is that community? It is a core group of people who do things to promote us, and a much larger group of people who sit back and watch it happen, then brag about how great the COMMUNITY is…

    I see the same thing online, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, various blogs, etc. It’s a community of one on my blog. At least I am happy. =)



  • December 13, 2010

    Bryan Jones

    Great analogy, true to what really matters to the passionate. Call it a Social Campfire, and it’s money.

    (I am now counting the minutes until someone asks how to scale the campfire.)

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Spike Jones, Jason B. Keeling, Casey Tygrett, john ratcliffe-lee, Jessica Kalbarczyk and others. Jessica Kalbarczyk said: RT @spikejones: Campfires. Not communities. […]

  • December 17, 2010

    Gil Gerretsen

    Seth Godin called them “tribes”. The fashionable name now is “communities”. For too many businesses, they are really “lecture halls” … a one-way tool of communication. In fact, that is what most blogs are. People write, but there is no returned communication. Business is ultimately about relationships, and if there is no relationship, there is no business. I like your campfire analogy, because it creates a picture of a safe environment where everyone is an equal and there is something for us to look at and work on together. Only then do communities really begin!

  • December 18, 2010

    Scott Graves

    Human behavior is accurately reflected in the use or misuse of social media as communications tool. The concept of collecting contacts into an online community where members lack any real connection or common interests is just another drab networking event for the 21st century. I say put your effort into searching for and making yourself available to those whose passions and interests align. Cultivate, Create, (oops, another sad attempt at a tasty phrase).

    Commencing munching…

  • […] love the campfire analogy presented by Spike Jones
    over at Brains on […]

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