Build it and they will come! Nope. It simply doesn’t work that way.
Having launched two collaboration platforms, brought together communities on social media, and filled a room full of people where there could be synergies, my number one lesson has been the importance of priming that pump of engagement!
Even with robust market research which shows that people and businesses are interested in collaborating with others, connection and collaboration takes nurturing.
I have just finished the first draft of my book which takes businesses through the necessary foundations to prepare for collaboration. However, even with these in place, it still takes one or all of the parties or the individual who is making the initial introductions to be what I refer to as the pacesetter. Pacesetting is the stage where momentum is created. This priming the pump is key for any type of collaborative activity.
Image: shows pacesetting within my collaborative process
In the online collaboration world, to get some early traction and momentum, you have to offer valuable content around which people will meet and engage. A really great example of this is the community Kelly Tyler and Helena Holrick of Speaker Insight have created in their group for speakers, authors and coaches. They not only provide daily posts including in-depth expert interviews and teaching, but they facilitate the giving and receiving of advice, tips and general conversation. Discussion across their 5000+ community is regular and engaging. They prime that pump day in and day out yet have systematised it in such a way that they still have time to run their numerous businesses between them.
We learned this when we introduced a crowdsourcing platform in my previous organisation, without the posting of challenges and invitations to share knowledge, with lots of nudges, engagement did not happen. I wish I had appreciated this when my team launched an earlier platform which enabled the sharing of healthcare challenges with businesses, we didn’t do enough to facilitate the discussion and never got beyond a beta version. With hindsight, our MVP didn’t incorporate all the critical steps to foster engagement. We were doing this pre-social media groups so had nothing to learn from.
The offline version of priming the pump often involves staying in the room when the businesses you have introduced are in the early days of their discussion. This can be metaphorical and just a case of being on hand, or actually facilitating every early discussion in person. Your work is to help them to see what you see, that is, the synergies and opportunities to work together. Don’t assume that just because you made an introduction that collaborative work will naturally flow. I have discovered this the hard way and now know the importance of pacesetting a collaboration. This will involve being a translator, speaking the language of each partner and supporting them to learn the language of the other and understanding the specific context in which they work.
When you prime the pump, are pacesetting, or being Seth Godin’s linchpin, your role is key until sufficient momentum is created. Kelly and Helena are great examples of this, they are still on hand but their community has hit a critical mass where it moves and shapes itself to serve the community from within. Their curation and moderation will forever remain important and their generosity and dedication to their cause, to serve those of us in their community, has been critical. You can’t expect a community or movement to become engaged overnight, it takes commitment and consistency.