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Wait for It… Emergence Happens

One of the most enjoyable and gratifying moments of being a community manager is when members of the community start to step up, create content, proactively initiate something, build relationships with people they’ve discovered, and feel comfortable enough to show more of their personalities.  This is all emergent behavior that as a community manager you want desperately to encourage but which is almost impossible to directly induce. In new communities it is wonderful to watch the new shoots of activity happen.  But… it goes in fits and starts. Some days it feels like everyone chimes in and some days, it feels like no one is paying attention.  One of the hardest things do to – especially if you are getting pressure from other stakeholders – is to wait for it.

Waiting is not a business activity that is recognized as having any value but it’s kind of like lurking – it has a lot more value than it appears to have on the surface.  Amber Naslund wrote a recent post about the spaces in between and it gets to something that has been foundational in my thinking for a long time – contrast enables clarity.  What I mean by that is that you can’t have success without failure leading up to it. You can’t have light without dark. You can’t have activity without quiet. You would not be able to recognize the good things if you the bad things didn’t exist. But waiting in a business context can kind of feel like goofing off. It is the perfect time to go for a walk/clean out your inbox/etc.  Knowing and having the confidence to hold back and not overwhelm the community with your own content and activity is so, so critical. Because if you do it all, your members will see no need or benefit to participating themselves.  You can over-water a plant. That doesn’t mean you build it and wait for them to come either but knowing how to seed a little, nudge a little… and then wait…. is the trick.

How do you spend your time while you wait? How do you explain that dynamic to people around you?

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