Here it goes:
1. Multiple Members. This may seem like a pretty obvious statement (and it is), but in order to have a community, you have to have more than just yourself. I also think there ought to be some sort of hierarchy or sorting mechanism for members. There are typically a few community leaders, a few community leaches, a large number of active members, and a number of passive members as well. I personally don’t do well with ambiguity or uncertainty, so having an easily identifiable hierarchy is helpful.
2. Purpose. Because people are so different, for any type of unifying body, there needs to be a shared goal, vision, or purpose. There needs to be a clear sense of what members can expect to give to the community and what they’ll get in return. I can have a community of neighbors, of sorority sisters, of fellow gym rats, etc… but I can’t have a community of people with nothing in common other than the fact that they exist.
3. Means of Communication. A community of solitude sounds more like shared isolation than a true community. In order to band together, people need to have a mechanism to share their ideas and thoughts. That can be basic language, an organized forum, an email/Facebook/social media group, etc. But every community needs to have a designated space for communication.
4. Means of Building Loyalty/Relationships. In today’s ever-expanding society, if someone joins a community that they just don’t click with, they can hop right back out and join another community elsewhere. For a community to really engage and retain members, they need to establish relationships within the communities, bonds with other members, or some sort of loyalty to the community itself.
5. Clear Expectations for Behavior. In order for people to start building the aforementioned relationships and bonds, they need a bit of guidance. For example, online communities each have their own cultures and set of expectations for what is allowed and what isn’t okay, and people need this sort of consistency to help guide their interactions… particularly in the early days of a community. Without behavioral expectations — defined implicitly or explicitly — people may be shy, unsure of how to act, or at risk of offending other community members.