Of course, community builders should talk to their members, build relationships, and seek their thoughts and opinions.
However, on the flip side, I believe community managers over-rely on this as a strategy and making decisions on what people think or say they will do is flawed.
Instead, we should be seeking to understand what people actually do, or try to do, and design around that. It’s so easy for people to say ‘yes I’d buy that’ or ‘yes I want and would use that’, but usually when it comes down to it they don’t and won’t.
As community builders (and often founders) these are the decisions we have to make, research and do community discovery around. It’s unfair to put the load and decision making onto the members.
When we ask for feedback we get opinions, not what people really do or want.
When we experiment and try doing actual things we get real data—that is the most powerful feedback.
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Interesting read, thank you. I joined a brainstorming session with other community building folk last night (I think you are actually part of the core team of it actually?) and one person questioned whether community could be a community if there was someone/ an organisation "in charge" and "leading" the community in some way. I personally think there can be but it was an interesting question they raised about what the community manager's role is and should be. Anyway, don't really know why I am sharing this (!) aside from it making me stop and think about it.