Today I’ll let you in on one of my family secrets – Casey Key, Florida. This is an island on the Gulf of Mexico, slightly South of Sarasota. It’s as close to “old Florida” as anyplace I’ve ever known, and my family has visited every year since long before I was born, it’s tradition for us.

As I sit and plan our trip this year, I recall my fond memories and the things that I long for that keep me going back year after year. One of these is the phenomenon known as the Nokomis Beach Drum Circle. I bring it up today because this drum circle is one of my all time favorite communities, and I think there’s a social media lesson here!

If you can’t see the video, click here.

It’s nice to have something “catch on” and grow. We all want to build something that serves the community and delivers value to all involved, including ourselves. While I truly believe that something better and different is often what’s required, I still see those that spend far too much time and effort trying to build something “catchy” or “viral”. I believe that the thought process is that if they can just make a big enough entry, a big enough splash, that they’ll be fine or “known” from that point on.

As a small business, spending our time and efforts striving towards something that will amount to little more than a momentary flash in the pan is not the best of ideas. If we are to survive and have a lasting impact, we need to build something a little more reliable, something more stable and dependable…something bigger than ourselves that will stand the test of time.

The ingredients for success in the Nokomis Beach drum circle couldn’t be any simpler. A strong community is what we’re all after, so I thought I’d break it down just a bit and see if anything might apply:

  • Location: The drum circle certainly boasts a nice location. When I think about “place” in an online environment, I generally think about a website or a blog. A unique and specific URL, this could just as well be a Facebook fan page, a Ning network, or a Posterous page. *Make sure that your location is such that visitors will find it appealing.
  • Uniqueness: The drum circle is not something you’ll see happening everywhere. If you want to be a part of it, you’ll have to travel to THIS location. Everyone who’s ever attended this event feels that they’ve been a participant in something special. People show up, and they bring their drums…they already know that the location, people, and the drums are what makes this community/event special and unique. *Are you making clear the purpose and uniqueness of your community?
  • Empowerment: The drum circle is an open community, and no one person is in charge. Everyone is welcome and invited to bring their own drum…make their own noise. Community members feel best when they have a voice. *Are you fostering a community that gives others the freedom to be heard? Are the members of the community allowed to display and grow in their strengths and unique talents?
  • Commitment and Consistency: The drum circle happens EVERY Wednesday and Saturday, and everybody knows it. Some of the participants drive long distances to participate in the drum circle each week. They never have the feeling that they’ll show up and drum down the sun alone. They know that everybody else is going to be there too.  *Are you being consistent? Do you create content or host something that people can count on?  Whether you are hosting a weekly event, tweeting, sending out a newsletter, or podcasting, see to it that it’s something that others can count on and feel comfortable inviting their friends to.
  • Community: The drum circle is made up of the individual participants, but is bigger than any one of them. The community provides common conditions and cohesiveness that affect the very identity of the participants. *Where’s your sunset, what’s the beat that you are inviting others to dance to? Are the seats arranged in a circle? (Hat tip to Chris Brogan)

Take a closer look at the communities that you yourself belong to. What are the ingredients and factors that keep you coming back? What are the things that make it stable and strong? Simply looking at what the community does for you and what you give into the community can lend a pretty clear picture that can help in the building of your own community.

So what do you think? In our efforts to do things differently and better than our competitors have we strayed too far from that which is common and human? Are we striving for something flashy and strange or something that can be expected to grow and last? I’d love to hear your input today. Please leave me a comment today, especially if you know of any place that will let me in with my drum.

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