The Laws of Nature Apply To Your Online Communities

Nature is comprised of ecosystems – and your online communities mirror their characteristics.

In TJ Smith previous career, in the green industry, I wore many hats, one of them being that of a certified arborist – a tree care professional.

This week we are having a heat wave in the Midwest and trees in particular have been increasingly showing signs of distress.  From this I have made several observations:

1. Nearly all of the owners of those trees are not taking action to stop the damage.

2. Proactive attention would have prevented the damage.

3.  The reasons for #1 and # 2 are lack of understanding about the process of growing a tree.

All of  this applies to your role as a blogger and content marketer.

Nothing is As Simple as It Seems

Growing an online community is much like growing a tree.  It requires a thorough understanding of the process for doing so – and consistent application of it.

Most homeowners recognize that a young tree requires attention – care and feeding. However, after that tree starts to mature, it seems to do the work on its own.  That’s when they step back and let nature do all of the work.

If conditions aren’t right, this is where everything falls apart.

Like that tree, online communities require your ongoing attention.  Just because you have built a vibrant community does not mean you can step back and watch it grow. You have to continue nurturing it.

Nature Seeks a Balance

In this heat, the Lindens in particular are dropping leaves from the crown (top of the tree).  The reason they are doing this is to balance the top with the bottom (the root system that supports it).

The root system that has been starved of moisture for weeks can now only support a limited crown – so the tree sheds leaves to achieve that balance.  It’s really an amazing mechanism that nature has designed to literally save the tree.

When you reduce the effort you put into your blog or other online communities, the community is proportionately reduced to achieve a balance.  Only your most loyal fans will hang around.

You Get a Second Chance – But Only One

Let’s assume your drought stressed tree is in serious trouble, nearly completely defoliated – but you step in and take action by giving it the water it needs.

After a period of time you will discover the tree will magically sprout new leaves.  So, you naturally think you are home free.

But wait – this is just another survival mechanism designed to save the tree. And it comes with a cost. Your tree is using valuable reserves that it had stored up to use the following year.

If you neglect it again it dies, because it’s reserves are depleted.

Your blog is like that tree.  If your blog has been fading, your limited subscribers will give you a second chance. They will hang around, and as a result will help you to attract more subscribers – but only if you as the caretaker demonstrate you are once again committed to helping that community.

Your blog or other online communities are like our natural environment.  That’s why they are sometimes referred to as an ecosystem. The ecosystem seeks a natural balance – with the caretaker filling in the gaps.

You are the caretaker of your online communities.  If something is missing you have to intervene to preserve the health of that community – filling in the gaps to accommodate changes in the environment.

This amounts to consistently adding valuable content, encouraging insightful comments and sharing, and weeding out anything that does not benefit the community.

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I’ll be honest.  Even though they aren’t mine, I feel for those trees I see declining in my neighborhood.

And I feel the same for abandoned blogs I’ve encountered that seemed to be really helping their communities.

How about you?

Do you care enough about your customers to thoroughly understand their needs and do the work for helping them?

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Until tomorrow,  Jeff

Photo Credit: formalfallacy