Written by: Dean Hua

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This a map of the new Rockville Town Center. It’s about 10 minutes away from my home. Ever since its grand opening a few months ago, it has been booming with people and become its own little community here in Rockville, Maryland.

towncenter map

Everything that you ever wanted to learn about online communities can be traced back to the proliferation of town centers.

Every booming town center has the following elements that contributes to its success;

  1. A park. It’s a place where people can congregate and people watch and just feel like they belong. A park is part of the communal experience.
  2. Shops. Shops are part of the commerce of a community. It’s where we buy and sell and exchange in commerce. A marketplace is needed to help the community thrive. Economics will always reign and it helps support the local infrastructure.
  3. Restaurants. The ultimate and timeless experience. We break bread and have solid conversations over food. It nourishes our soul while we “connect” with others. Whether it is our friends, family, or co-workers, these are all people that make up our community.
  4. Residential units. You can’t have a community and successful town center without people who live in them. Residential units such as apartments, townhomes, and condos are the ultimate in community building. They go beyond just encouraging people to visit the community. They tell people to stay for good and help become the community.

Wanna build an online community? Pretty easy. Just take a look at these four elements of a town center and decide what the online equivalents of these are.

What will encourage people to stay? What elements will get people to engage in commerce and improve their bottom line, assuming that is one of the goals of the organization. What will help people feel like they are truly connected to each other? What will help bridge the connection?

The proliferation of town centers is simply a reflection of the need of Americans today. There is an innate desire to reach out and be a part of each other’s lives. To touch and be touched. Connect, reconnect, and connect some more.

Is your community helping to bridge the connections?


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