Not all types of communications are equal. When you meet someone in person you form a deeper relationship with them than thousands of online interactions.
We’re increasingly seeing a hierarchy of contact. At the lowest levels members talk via contributing content which others read. It’s slow, thoughtful and not interactive.
At the higher levels are immediate response, real-time communication and stronger context (i.e. talking by IM is stronger than chat-rooms – you had to add that person to your instant messenger).
Members communicate in person.
Members communicate by phone.
Members communicate by voice-chat.
Members communicate in IM/SMS.
Members communicate in chat-rooms.
Members communicate by social networks.
Members communicate by forums.
Members communicate via Twitter.
Members communicate by blog posts/videos/UGC.
You do well when you try to get members communicating at the higher levels. Members form closer bonds and participation increases.
Front Porch Forum often starts with one person’s posting that is read by many. Then the fun begins… it sparks responses on FPF, as well as direct emails to the original author, phone calls, etc. And… highest on Richard’s list… that one posting leads to face to face conversation among neighbors on actual front porches (and sidewalks, country stores, playgrounds, etc.).