From Physical to Digital and Back: The Rise of Communities
From Physical to Digital and Back: The Rise of Communities
31 // August // 2014 Osnat G.
The world of blogging has formed a fertile ground for the establishment of various influential communities in diverse areas. But where does their power lie? Ahead of Blog Action Day, Osnat Golan, V.P. Communications and Digital at Strauss Group, explains how communities drive change and why businesses must create long-term relationships with them.

Just pause for a moment and think - how do you define yourselves? In addition to being a part of a family and citizens of your country, there are many diverse groups that you must feel connected to. It may be based on your marital status, political views, areas of interests, hobbies and more.   Each and every one of us has various groups of association, or, calling them by their name- communities, which we are a part of. T the core of such connection lies, first and foremost, the basic human need for belonging. The framework of a community provides its members with a sense of recognition and respect, and, just as important, it gives individuals power as part of a community in which the influence of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.   In recent years, with the rise of the technologies-intensive digital world, new communities have emerged to meet various needs and issues in diverse digital platforms – capital-raise websites (kickstarters) and purchase groups based on a financial need, communities for environmental improvement based on values, communities of moms based on a marital status, and more.   As you can imagine, communities didn't first emerge in the 2.0 generation, through the establishment of blogs or the invention of Facebook. They have always been there. But they are a social phenomenon that gained huge momentum in light of the digital revolution, various technologies and new platforms that eliminated distances almost completely, making them less relevant Today, communities can start out at a totally digital-virtual dimension, form personal contacts that shift to a physical interface such as offline meetings, and go back for further dialogue in the online space, and so on.     What connects communities to businesses?   In such ecosystem, where the number and volume of communities is ever-growing, businesses should formulate the right set of interfaces and contacts with their stakeholders' communities. In these communities lies in the power of change and improvement for businesses, when working wisely and effectively with them. It is about tapping into an opportunity to create long-term relationships based on thorough knowledge of the needs of these communities, and providing them with the relevant response.   Placing the relations with stakeholders on "community" platforms makes work with these groups much more effective. It creates proper management of resources along with good utilization of opportunities – the business fosters ties with a community in which these people are already engaged.   From Theory to Practice, Or: The Recipe   So we now understood why it is important to build relations with communities, but how do we map them? And what is the ultimate way to communicate with them? First you have to map the stakeholder groups that are important to your business. Let's take Strauss, for example. Our stakeholders, as an international food company, include various groups: consumers, entrepreneurs, business partners, media and communications people, suppliers, technologists, food experts and dietitians. After mapping these communities, it is important to create for the organization suitable work practices with these communities. In order to provide real value that meets the organization's needs, it should gain thorough knowledge about communities and engage in an open dialogue with them.   Fortunately, technology is available to us in terms of eliminating distances, to the point where today we can stay in touch with groups that couldn't be approached in the past. Our connection with communities helped us develop a 360˚ approach to managing relations with stakeholders, namely managing relationships with a wide range of communities, identifying their needs, generating value for them and building trust over time.   In order to sustain relations with communities that are important to your business, you first have to develop engagement leadership capabilities among the people who will de-facto lead the process, by creating open platforms.   You can compare this process to a "passing the ball" game - open platforms enable the people managing relations with communities to play a conceptual ball game with the people comprising these communities - listen to their needs, and once the ball is passed into the hands of the business, meet a certain need and pass it back into the hands of the community in anticipation for a response.   Engagement and open dialogue with communities are the driver of improvement and a two-way impact. By listening to the relevant communities, a business can develop tailored solutions with greater value for them, thereby earning a place in their life within the journey to improve people's lives around the world - at any point on the globe they may be.  
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