Guides Book review: Buzzing Communities by Richard Millington

Book review: Buzzing Communities by Richard Millington

Last updatedJune 2, 2024
AuthorKai Forsyth

While the community landscape has evolved significantly since Richard Millington’s book Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities was first published in 2013, I recently re-read it to see if the principles and advice still hold true over a decade later. Millington’s most recent books Build Your Community and The Indispensable Community do provide a more contemporary and relevant views on community, however, perhaps surprisingly, this book still remains an essential read for anyone looking to cultivate a thriving online community in 2024.

As an experienced community manager and founder of the community consultancy FeverBee, Millington promises to arm readers with proven tactics and practical insights needed to overcome common challenges – guidance that is still highly relevant and effective today. Despite the passage of time and technological advancements, the core strategies Millington shares for building active, engaged communities that provide real value to members have stood the test of time.

Millington delivers timeless community-building expertise

So does Buzzing Communities live up to its promise? In my opinion, it absolutely does. Even though social media and community technologies have advanced since the book’s publication, the core principles and strategies Millington shares are as relevant as ever. Millington has been in the online community trenches for over a decade – both managing communities hands-on and advising organizations on strategy. Millington’s experience shines through on every page. You won’t find abstract theories or high-level fluff here. Instead, Millington focuses on battle-tested techniques and real-life case studies that illustrate what actually works when it comes to building successful communities.

The book methodically tackles each stage of the community-building process, from attracting new members to increasing participation, managing conflict, and measuring results. While the specific tools may have changed, the fundamentals of human behavior and group dynamics that Millington draws upon are timeless. He breaks down complex problems, like dealing with trolls or sustaining growth, into straightforward steps that anyone can implement. The checklists, templates, and step-by-step instructions he provides make best practices easy to adapt and put into action in today’s community contexts.

Actionable insights shared through engaging storytelling

One of the standout features of Buzzing Communities is Millington’s ability to convey complex ideas and strategies in a clear, engaging manner. He strikes a perfect balance between providing data-driven insights and illustrating them with relatable, real-world examples from his extensive experience in community management.

Millington’s writing style is conversational yet informative, making even the most technical aspects of community-building accessible to readers. He has a talent for breaking down complicated concepts into digestible, actionable takeaways that readers can immediately apply to their own communities.

Throughout the book, Millington shares candid stories of his successes and failures, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges and triumphs of building thriving online communities. These anecdotes serve not only to entertain but also to educate, offering valuable lessons and practical wisdom that readers can learn from.

While the book is packed with useful information, my favorite section was on encouraging members to create content. As Millington notes, user-generated content is the lifeblood of any community. But getting people to take the leap from lurking to posting is tricky. I loved his idea of “seeding” discussions with interesting prompts to get the ball rolling. His tips for identifying potential contributors and making personal invitations are as effective now as they were a decade ago.

While some of the specific case studies and examples in Buzzing Communities may feel slightly dated, the core principles and strategies Millington shares are as relevant as ever. He wisely focuses on the fundamental human behaviors and community dynamics that transcend any particular platform or technology.

An empowering community-building blueprint

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by Buzzing Communities. Despite being published in 2013, the book’s core teachings remain highly relevant and valuable. Millington manages to comprehensively cover the art and science of community building while keeping things lively and engaging. I came away from the book energized and brimming with fresh ideas on how to incorporate the principles shared by Millington in conversations with customers and in the design of Hall, the customer community platform we are building.

If you’re involved with online communities in any capacity – as a manager, moderator, marketer, or startup founder – you’ll find some value in these pages. Whether your community is on the latest social platform or an old-school discussion forum, the principles outlined in Buzzing Communities still provide an empowering blueprint for growth and engagement.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to harness the potential of customer communities. While some minor details may feel rooted in the early 2010s, the vast majority of Millington’s wisdom is truly evergreen. His contagious passion and deep expertise make Buzzing Communities an indispensable field guide for navigating the evolving world of customer communities. Don’t hesitate to add this book to your library if you’re looking for proven ideas on how to make your company more community-orientated.

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