Chapter 13. The Anatomy of a Conversation

Communities are all about conversations.

This isn’t a new idea, and it isn’t ours—The Cluetrain Manifesto (, talks about this concept extensively. It’s just taken a long time for mainstream businesses to embrace it. But embrace it they have, and today’s marketing organization is a veritable group hug with communities in the farthest reaches of the Web.

Having looked at some of the reasons that you need to engage in a dialogue with your audience—both on platforms that you run yourself and those run by others—it’s time to turn to the conversations themselves.

All conversations consist of three distinct components: who’s talking, what they’re talking about, and how they’re talking. The same is true of communities, and these three components can help you understand the dynamics of community monitoring.

The Participants: Who’s Talking?

Some of the community participants are members of your own organization, helping to grow and moderate it, but the vast majority of community members are outsiders.

Internal Community Advocates

Communities thrive on activity. As with conversations, an awkward silence makes everyone uncomfortable. If you’re organizing and moderating a community, it’s your job to fill in the gaps in the conversation so that the other participants stick around.

Nurturing and engaging communities requires the involvement of employees from the mailroom to the boardroom. If you’re running a community by yourself, such as a customer ...

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