Thanks to Matt for linking to this video from the 2009 Sasquatch Music Festival, which I am about the last person on the interwebs to see, I think.
Thoughts I had as I watched this video and how it could apply to your community-building efforts:
1 - The guy dancing by himself would have danced all day by himself, if he had to. He was just having fun, and probably enjoyed the idea that everyone was staring at him.
2 - The SECOND guy is what starts the movement toward everyone dancing. Without the first guy standing up and dancing by himself, the second guy probably never moves.
3 - When the third guy joins in, suddenly everyone else realizes that everything has changed. A minute ago, it was 'who is that idiot dancing by himself?' Now that the third person has joined in, suddenly everyone is wanting to join in. Either because they want to be a part of this group that's being created before their eyes, or because they realize that if they DON'T join in, they are going to become 'that idiot that's sitting down by himself while everyone else dances'.
4 - Reality changed in a matter of seconds. It went from being 'cool' to sit down and enjoy the show, to being 'cool' to stand up and dance with strangers.
5 - Passion is infectious.
So what does this mean for your community-building efforts?
1 - Give the stage to that first guy. It could be the guy that wants to dance by himself, or it could be the guy that wants to spend 4 hours a night answering questions on your forum and solving customer issues. But make sure that first guy has room to dance, because that's what he wants to do.
2 - Once the first person is taking the action you want, as quickly as possible, find a way to encourage the second and third guy/gal to join in. This is key as it gets everyone else's attention, and it makes it much easier for everyone else to feel comfortable participating.
3 - Let your members/users/readers understand that they are creating a shared experience. Notice this video went from 3 guys dancing to 100 in a matter of seconds. Everyone knew that something special was happening, and that they had a chance to be a part of it. That they had a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves. That's very rare and powerfully enticing to people. So you want to make it as easy as possible for the people sitting down to want to get up and start contributing to your community, to start dancing.
BTW one last thought; by the end of the video was the 'event' still the concert itself for the audience, or how they were dancing together?
What did you see when you watched this?
PS: Verdino has already tried to hijack the comments with shameless self-promotion, so I figured I'd make it easier for everyone to see his kick-ass post on this same video.
PPS: And literally while I was editing the post to include a link to Verdino's post, Spike leaves a comment with a link to HIS post on the video. Anyone else? ;)