In the editorial “Focus Pocus vs. Self-interest, which one’s better?” I introduced what I feel to be the top 5 considerations for forming a “group” that I have used and relied on for over two decades in business and private, those items were made in response to a question that was asked of me about what I felt were the five most important factors in forming a group. The important thing to remember, first off, is that it doesn’t matter what sort of group you are forming, it’s like there’s no difference between selling balloons and perfume, “selling” is “selling”.
Now, anyone reading this is going to be asking themselves, “What qualifies this writer to be saying all this stuff?”
Well, the short version is, he has been involved in, created, managed and facilitated “teams” for specific purposes in industry and commerce since 1985. He has been a hands on manager in the supply chain arena, a workshop scheduler and manager and an assistant to the G.M. in engineering and fabrication. He has studied and qualified in Business and has lead Occupational Health and Safety committees. Since coming to our wonderful and rambunctious cyber-world he has served as administrator and moderator in a number of organisational online presences and has been Owner/Facilitator of his own groups along the way. As far as RVL goes, since coming on board in early 2011 he has led the team that has seen our little e-zine grow from just a couple of hundred views a month in a handful of countries to having an audience of over 3,000 visits per month, regularly and being read in over 120 countries. That’s the short version and if that doesn’t cut it then I suggest you stop reading and go make a cuppa…!
The list for the “Hypothetical Group Project – Top 5 set-up requirements that I proposed read;
1) Balanced and co-ordinated “founder team”. It has been proven, in psychological and workplace studies that a “Focus Group” consisting of individuals of different strengths and specialties makes for the best mix of creation. The one thing that is important above all, each member of the team should, ideally, be in the project for the ‘right’ reasons.
2) Advertise. From day one, a presentation for public consumption. This will thwart the “rumour mill” and the “haters”.
3) Communicate. Create a webpage, not a group, where you can feed regular updates on progress and growth to “followers” and have them see, thus spread the word, that you are NOT hiding anything.
4) Appoint a spokesperson, 1 ONLY. All communications for public consumption should be made by that person only. Extra people, throwing in extra words may seem to be uncoordinated and will, even if unintentionally, provide ammunition to the “haters and critics”.
5) Maintain the flow, growth and development. Appoint more staff if you need to, assign specific tasks and goals to each. DON’T try and go it alone. Any delays will come across to followers as, “Yeah, well, not really THAT interested, just doin’ it for shit’s ‘n’ giggles really…”
So, let’s assume we have our group established, that’s a milestone indeed but the real work comes in now, how to grow, how to develop, how to mature the group into a long term, viable and respectable entity.
It is necessary to realise that the visibility, popularity and reputation of the group leaders/owners will undoubtedly influence an initial acceptance or non-acceptance, in broader terms, of the group itself. This is inescapable and the harder one tries to, if necessary, counter the initial perceptions the bigger the problem will become and will create a diversion from the goal and purpose of the project.
You will probably experience an initial “rush” to join which can see your membership numbers reach what appears to be a very respectable number, however, if this “rush” doesn’t translate into involvement and interaction on a steady and continual basis you will find yourself sitting at the head of a list of names, and that’s all.
So, what’s the best way to get people to WANT to get involved?
This is something that’s going to be up to owners and their staff to guide, the staff of the group, the people running it have to realise two things; 1) Rome wasn’t built overnight and 2) You get out of it what you put in. Yeah, I know… two hackneyed and overused old phrases BUT that doesn’t make them untrue. Patience, in the early days, is going to be the key to getting what you want.
There’s another old saying that you’ll hear from time to time, usually reserved for optimistic commercial entities, “Build it and they will come”, unfortunately that’s only true of shopping malls and brothels… anything else needs to be displayed and in order to make that display effective you need “a hook”, you need something unique, something about your group project that no one else has. Better come to terms with the fact, from the get-go, people aren’t, wholesale, stupid and if there’s one thing they are in our modern Vampyre culture, they are spoiled for choice so you have to make your ‘jewel’ shine just a little brighter than the other folks’
The best idea, for promoting your group, is to have a two pronged approach. For this, and much as I do hate to admit it, Facebook is an ideal vehicle for multi-layer marketing, if you will. Create your group on Facebook where you have control over visibility and accessibility. The second step in the establishment, make a Facebook ‘page’, an entirely different thing to group. On the “Page” you can offer teasers, snippets, highlights, quick promos and pretty much any form of short and enticing tid-bit to get people coming to your group. A very good idea is to start with a Statement of Purpose, or Mission Statement.
Writing a Mission Statement is not just about saying, “We are a group of fluffy-toed green wiggles and we want to spread word about our great lifestyle as fluffy-toed green wiggles. We don’t want any DRAMA coz’ that upsets ALL fluffy-toed green wiggles and we don’t like being upset.”
Hmmmm…! Doesn’t really make it does it? Get together with your “founder team”, read the mission statements of some of the biggest and longest established Houses, Covens, Groups and Organisations and make practical use of the myriad examples available out there… don’t just cut and paste someone else’s mission statement… that’s gonna get you pegged as “just plain wrong” – be sincere, be succinct and put your idea out there cleanly and clearly.
Once you have the grand opening…
Things are gonna start off slow, that’s a given. It’s going to take time to attract people from there comfortable other 1367 groups… yeah? Don’t laugh just check on people who do come to you to join.
We call these folks “trophy club hunters”, it’s kinda like who can get the most groups. It is NOT humanly possible to keep up with notifications from 1367 groups so notifications get turned off, simple. Doesn’t do you any good though.
Let’s face it, you want people in your group who are going to find/create interest and who are going to generate activity in their interactions with the others in your group. If people are motivated they will start discussions, and I don’t mean just regurgitating old discussions ad nauseum, there’s plenty going on around and within the modern culture to provide food for thought for people and that, ultimately, will be one of the strongest draw cards of your group.
Group members – The lifeblood
One of the things that is going to set your group apart from the others is its membership. Any group membership, regardless of its size, needs to be a well-balanced, interested and active membership. People with ideas, people with concepts, people with a little verve otherwise they are just going to sit there and say… well… nothing and that, ultimately, will see your group wither and die as so many others have done.
It is at this point you, and you co-founders, will need to decide how the hierarchy of you group will be set up. In this you have two choices, and here again, it comes back to “focus group” versus “special interest group”.
Consider, if you will, the following question; is your group a “democratic” establishment or an “autocracy”? That is, will you and your co-founders have an equal and equitable say in how the group runs and how the decisions are made for the group or, will your group be under your sole control as owner with your co-founders as administrators? There are equal pros and cons for both models and really, when all is said and done, it comes down to your personal style.
It is going to be very important that your potential members understand what sort of group it is because a set of rules is the one thing that separates an establishment from a rabble.
Looking forward, your group’s wider role and appeal
Once your group is off the ground you will be, I assume, deciding a couple of things; will your group be a small body, say you and ten of your closest like-minded friends, or will you be aiming for large membership and, hopefully, some recognition in the wider modern Vampire culture? It’s important that you know where you are going for without goals and aims a group simply founders.
In deciding the course for your fledgling group you may wish to consider establishing a presence with one of the “cooperatives” in play today.
It is here that you have, to my mind, three choices.
1) The Dark Nations, under the stewardship of the renowned Madam X of House of The Dreaming, is a “United Nations” style body that is made up of “Embassies” from different organisations within the modern culture. Each group that is granted membership (by application} maintains a representative embassy at Dark Nations aimed at promoting and facilitating relations between groups and organisations within the culture.
2) The Unity Project, led by King Maven Lore of The House of Lore New Orleans and Queen Gia Ahlia Bathory von Ecsed, Countess of Cachtrice and Queen of The Vampire Court of Memphis, is a unification project with similar aims that has established itself along, loosely, Monarchical lines where a collective of localised “Courts” are joined in a cooperative effort to achieve ongoing harmony and relations between “Courts” across the United States.
3) Independent House/Organisation, where the group/House or Organisation maintains an independent and active presence in the wider modern Vampyre culture.
I suppose it all rather depends, at the end of the day, whether you would rather call yourself Owner, Ambassador or King/Queen. Either way, again, it is by your choice that determines how you will guide your group in interacting with the wider culture.
This is always, has always been and will always be one of the most difficult of decisions that any group leadership will face, what sort of people do you want in your group and again it comes down to “focus” versus “special interest”. A great deal has been made of the fact that group memberships, being made out of “people” in general, will be prone to all the pitfalls of having disparate ideas, differing ideologies and different philosophies… this is NOT a bad thing, it keeps discussions lively, it provides the widest range of opinion sharing and perception and can, very often, lead to unique and imaginative product, solutions and projects. Having said that however you really don’t want your group to become a seething mass of arguments and sniping… i.e. DRAMA
So, how to keep the “Drama Llama” in the barn?
One solution could be found in the following proposed “Membership Evaluation Framework”. This method has been developed based on the marvellous Bonewits’ Cult Evaluation Framework, developed by Isaac Bonewits, and provides a simple set of observable criteria by which any group owner could be able to determine whether a person is going to be suitable for their group… no, it’s not elitism, it’s common sense… you don’t elect a group of cattle to run a round up now do you?
In essence, in forming any group for a purpose or objective, it is important that you establish a solid core of key members who are dedicated to seeing the group thrive and become what you want it to be. These people, including you, need to be willing to “get their hands dirty”. By that, you and your co-founders need to be able to effectively dedicate time to the project – time EACH WEEK, I would suggest a minimum of five hours per person.
You need to have a “hook”, something that is unique and desirable to members of the culture to make them want to get interested and involved in the group.
You need “quality” input… quantity, although it looks good on the surface, might be all potatoes and no meat and that isn’t going to cut it for very long before your group gets consigned to the “Ho Hum, seen it all before!” basket.
Remember, having a thousand members or followers looks good but if they’re not doing anything at all then you’re gonna be a King/Queen on a lonely throne, an ambassador without a tribe or a leader without followers in which case… why did you come here?
Copyright T & RVL 2018
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