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It’s commonly understood that people spend their time with people they know — both offline and online. People spend their money with companies and individuals they know and trust (if possible). People donate to causes run by organizations and people they know and trust. That’s human nature.

online-community-networkingCommunity building also is the lifeblood of any successful web company. If you don’t have a community, you have nothing defensible long term.

Yes, part of a strong community is a gorgeous product that works. But community doesn’t just happen by itself even if you’ve nailed the product component. How exactly do you facilitate strong community dynamics?

Community building 101 is NOT talking to each and every community member. Great community building is facilitating interactions, conversations, and, ultimately, relationships among community members.

Speaking to everyone in a community is not a scaleable solution. Sure, it’s reasonable (vital) in the early days when the community is small. But as you inevitably grow your user base, maintaining strong relationships with everyone quickly becomes impossible.

Maintaining great relationships with your most passionate and vocal supporters is the best use of your time. Keep those core members informed by keeping them “in the know” and you’ll boost their ego a bit (everyone likes to know things others don’t). They will also act as a marketing arm on your behalf to their respective audiences.

At the end of the day, it’s well and dandy to bring community members together online, but without a doubt it’s exponentially more powerful to bring them together in person.

It should come as no surprise to you that people go to bat for the people they’ve touched, sized up with their own eyes, had beers with, and traded jokes and stories with. Remember, you need your community to go to bat for you when they are tempted by the next person pitching them on why their product is better than yours.

Are you focused on relationships with all your community members? Or are you focused on facilitating conversations amongst them?

The choice is yours.

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Oh Hey World. Global nomad originating in Seattle. Ex-Zillow community builder. Social Entrepreneur. Microfinance advocate. Travel addict. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva. Find him on Twitter @drewmeyers.

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