Building an Online Community: The importance of rhythm

Our everyday lives have a rhythm: waking up and preparing for work, commuting, checking e-mail, attending meetings, commuting home, engaging with kids' activities, enjoying quiet time. Although there are different rhythms for different people, most of our lives do have a rhythm, which contributes to its sense of familiarity. Towns also have a rhythm.

Vibrant communities also have a rhythm. At the heart of a community is a web of enduring relationships among members, but the tempo of their interactions is greatly influenced by the rhythm of community events. Regular meetings, teleconferences, web site activity, and informal lunches ebb and flow along with the heartbeat of the community. When that beat is strong and rhythmic, the community has a sense of movement and liveliness. If the beat is too fast, the community feels breathless; people stop participating because they are overwhelmed. When the beat is too slow, the community feels sluggish.

Give workshops and coach local team members and managers. These visits make the community's contribution to the organization visible and marked a major step in the community's development.

The rhythm of the community is the strongest indicator of its aliveness.

There are many rhythms in a community:

·       the tempo of familiar and exciting events

·       the frequency of private interactions

·       the ebb and flow of people from the sidelines into active participation  

·       the pace of the community's overall evolution

A combination of whole-community and small-group gatherings creates a balance between the thrill of exposure to many different ideas and the comfort of more intimate relationships. A mix of idea-sharing forums and tool-building projects fosters both casual connections and directed community action. There is no right beat for all communities and the beat is likely to change as the community evolves. But finding the right rhythm at each stage is key to a community's development.

About the Author:  Mary McFarlin is the Group founder of Linked N Chicago, Chicago's best and largest business professional networking group.  She is also the CEO of The Chicago Project LLC. Check Mary McFarlin out on LinkedIn