David Spinks, CEO and founder of CMX Media, opened up CMX Summit East by synthesizing his work over the last 7 years into some groundbreaking frameworks.

He started out telling his own story of finding community — through the hardcore music scene.

“I struggled to find a sense of community as a kid,” David said. Then he found the music scene and jumped in headfirst, meeting other members at shows and joining moshpits, for better or for worse. “I actually shattered my jaw in three places and decided to go back to the mosh pit once. Blame it on community.”

The experience of struggling to find community for so long may explains why David enjoys bringing community to others so much.

“Community is on fleek,” David jokes.

But we are really at a turning point here. Community is becoming more and more important in the business world each day.

Why is this happening now?

This is in part due to technology, which facilitates communication, control, and raises expectations. We now have to ask the questions: How do you motivate people? How do you empower them and distribute control to them?

Even if the companies who are interested in community misunderstand it, it is still a good thing that they are interested. They may not understand what we do, but we can teach them.

The 3 Major Challenges Community Professionals Face

Before jumping into the framework, David explains why it is so important that we have this to look to. We are facing some major challenges currently as community builders. Those are:

1. Lack of definition. What do we do? how do we do it? Answer: build core, then distribute control.

2. Unclear value. How do we show our value to our companies? All community works toward product, support or growth.

3. Unsupportive culture. Our companies don’t understand our value and don’t know how to define us, so they end up being unsupportive.

These same three challenges have plagued David since he first started focusing on community. Recently, he had an “ah-ha” moment. Here’s the framework that came out of it.

A Framework for Understanding How Community Works in Organizations

The Old Way

Here is the traditional organization: vision > team > audience > community. There are two separate entities: the people who build the company (team) and the people who pay for that company’s products and services. (audience and community). This divide is hurting us.

Photo May 19, 9 11 23 AM

The New Way

Here is the community-driven organization: the four parts are all one entity.

“A company is one collective entity. It is one continuum. Your team is the core of the community. Your power users aren’t necessarily the core of the community, they are your team. Your community and audience simply become an extension of your team.”

“It’s not them and then us. It’s we.”

The Community Curve

David outlined that all communities operate along a curve defined by the amount of control, reward, and commitment that they require.

The amount of control, the rewards, and level of commitment is different on each level. Highest levels at “team” level, lowest at “audience”.

How Community Works at Apple, Wikipedia, Airbnb

1. Apple

At Apple, there is the internal team, forum responders, and consumers of Apple products. But there are also app developers in the community who become an extension of the Apple brand.

2. Wikipedia

At Wikipedia, you have the team, the editors, and then the readers. All of these parts of the company form one large community which serves Wikipedia’s overall mission.

3. Airbnb

At Airbnb, the internal team empowers the hosts and hosts give guests an amazing experience.

“Every single organization in the world has the opportunity to embrace the same thing that worked for all these social networks: how to distribute control and motivate them properly.

This isn’t anything new,” David says. “Companies actually started as communities. The etymology of “company” comes from “companion: one who eats bread with you.” We survived as a human species because of community. If that community cut you out, you’re dead. You’re screwed. Can you imagine if you can give people a sense of community that taps into that survival instinct?” You can create unrivaled loyalty.

David calls upon Rob Hayes  “Community makes your product indestructible.”

Call to Action

David finished up his presentation with a call to action to us as community builders. We have two options to solve our three challenges.

1. Start to fight for community in your organization.

2. “If you’re not up for that, quit. Find a company where it is already a belief.” Today, there are thousands of those out there.

Monica Raffaelli

Monica is a graduate student at NYU School of Engineering.