I don’t know if it was Bitnorth, spending the last couple of nights communing in Barcelona with other members of the internal Dell Storage community, or the tweets coming from my friend Ed Saipetch at Monktoberfest, but I have finally decided to write this post.
Beer | [ wine | $someOtherBeverage ] is an essential ingredient for successfully building communities.
This may seem like a radical statement, but hear me out. A few months ago, I wrote a post about the definition of a community. In that post, I outlined the sociological requirements to call a group a community:
- Place: Territorial or place community can be seen as where people have something in common
- Interest: In interest or ‘elective’ communities people share a common characteristic other than place
- Communion: a sense of attachment to a place, group or idea
Those elements happen after people open up, bond, and create their places, interests, and communions that make them a community. I’m saying communal drinking is one of the catalysts to get people to open up so that the place, interest, and communion can be firmly established. According to the Social Issues Research Group, in most cultures drinking is social. Their research showed that across cultures some things remained the same:
In all cultures, the drinking-place is a special environment, a separate social world with its own customs and values
A great example of this are the #storagebeers and #vbeers events that are usually held during enterprise storage and virtualization conferences. There are rules around organizing an event: only customers can organize an event. Vendors can come along, and can pay, but it can’t be a vendor-organized event.
The events are usually live-cast via tweets, solidifying the community with rituals and vocabulary that identify members who are part of the “club”. Most of the time, people have “met” each other on Twitter, or have been reading blogs of people who promise to attend. Maybe they feel a little silly about coming to an event to meet total strangers, but coming to a pub to share a beer after work is a commonly accepted social ritual. It breaks down the barriers of entry into the boisterous storage community.
By the way when and where is #vbeers for #VMworld in Copenhagen??
Drinking-places tend to be socially integrative, egalitarian environments
I can think of a couple of examples of that demonstrate how organized tweet-ups can be environments that neutralize power and title. Chuck Hollis was at the very first #cxiparty and he visited with all of the storage twitterati who were in attendance. Certainly not expected behavior for a high profile industry executive.
At the Dell Storage Forum in Orlando, all of the Dell Storage executives were present sharing stories and with customers, partners and employees of all levels. Michael Dell himself showed up and visited with everyone as well. Not everyone had an alcoholic beverage, but that didn’t matter. It was an egalitarian environment that transcended title or choice of beverage. Listen for yourself, you can actually hear the community coming together on this Infosmack podcast.
The primary function of drinking-places is the facilitation of social bonding
Social bonding leads to communion (a sense of attachment to a place, group or idea). If you share beers with another person, you don’t start off talking about business. You talk about sports, your family, the weather, sometimes politics. Heck you may even talk about beer. You start identifying things you have in common with the person with whom you are drinking beer.
I believe in a world where we work with people who live far from us, we don’t have lots of time or many opportunities to make real bonds that lead to communion and create community. Having a beer together, finding out how similar you are to a team mate on the other side of the world, helps you remember to reach out to them more often, to be more inclusive so that a broader point of view is included in the projects you share.
For marketers, sharing beers with the broader community is critical to success. You will disagree with a competitor at some point in the future, that is a given. I’ve found that having a personal connections makes these conflicts more productive. If you can share a beer with your partners and customers, really get to know them and build community, they are going to be more receptive when you want them to listen to a message you have for them. Actually having beers together builds community, so when you market you get beyond messaging to having a conversation.
What do you think? Are you part of any communities where the small world ties are made stronger by communing at your local watering hole? What do you think about the idea of beer being a critical component to community building?