Fraternity Life & The Evolution Of Community
When I rushed and then pledged ZBT during the late eighties the actives promised that Greek life would be good for our education, for building friendships and that one day it would lead to business opportunities we would be grateful for.
I remember thinking they were right about the friendship and the academic rewards. I suppose I probably thought the business benefits would be good too but at 18 I didn’t spend any time thinking about a time in the future when I would care about work.
Nor did I ever think about how one day I would relate four years of fraternity life to the experiences involved in building communities online either.
Then And Now
When I joined we were about an 80 man house or so and growing. By the end of my sophomore year we had about 120 brothers. The numbers dropped during my junior year because changes implemented by the National organization had a negative impact upon membership.
And by the time senior year rolled around we were back around the 80 or so level that we had been at during my first year.
However we weren’t the house we had been when I pledged and first became active. This isn’t supposed to be a detailed analysis about why things changed, it is a quick commentary. A big part was because many of the guys who came in after were different than we were and also because we were different.
We see the impact of changes in blogging all the time. You could argue that it is more evident in personal blogs than professional but I am not convinced that is true.
In part because professional blogs are written by people and people change.
You probably don’t know the name of the actor who plays ‘Jack Box,’ the CEO of the Jack-In-The-Box restaurant franchise any more than you know the name of the actor who plays Ronald McDonald of McDonalds fame.
What you do know is these men are the faces of those businesses and their voices impact your perception.
A good corporate blog has a distinct voice too which helps to attract and build a community around it. That community is obviously impacted and affected by the content that is shared and over time you always see changes because over time people decide the content is no longer relevant and leave.
Or alternatively it is considered to be quite useful and more people join the community. Those changes up and down can have a significant impact which is part of why smart businesses/bloggers maintain close relationships with the community.
By keeping your ear to the ground you have a greater ability to try to continue to provide content they want to read.
Sometimes It Doesn’t Matter
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how closely you pay attention because in spite of your best efforts changes in the community prevent you from retaining people.
When I started my fifth year of college I knew I wasn’t going to spend as much time at the house any more. The character of the house had changed a bit and I wasn’t getting the same thing out of it any more.
Intramural sports were fun and sometimes some of the older guys and I would show up at the parties but it really didn’t feel like our house any more. There was the sense of “been there, done that” and that impacted my perception.
Sometimes some of the younger brothers would ask me to come to events and tell me that my feeling was off, we were all ZBTS and the made it my house too.
In concept it was right but in practice that is not how it felt to me any more.
Communities evolve and that isn’t a bad thing but from a professional standpoint you need to be aware of how and why your community is evolving so that you can stay on top of things.
It is even more important when the voice/face of your business is tied into one person because there may come a time when they decide to leave or potentially they do something that forces them to leave.
So you need to think about some of these things in advance so that you know what you want to do and aren’t caught sleeping.
What do you think?