There is a need to create a sense of belonging, more than ever.
It is possible today to build community, but the real responsibility is to feed that community.
If a business supports an initiative, it has to have a role to play; otherwise it is just thinly veiled PR chest beating.
A council cannot proudly promote community commitment when on the other side it is charging for the use parks and beaches (which my council in Poole are doing) or closing libraries where 8,000 jobs have disappeared since 2010.
Defining Audience And Community
When you have a pointed idea or a point of view and you don’t waver from it, you can find other people that have the same pointed view.
Building community, not just an audience, brings people closer together. This is not about collecting likes; this is the lonely walk for companionship.
In The Content Revolution, I highlight the difference between audience and community.
AUDIENCE – those people who have agreed to receive information from you ie. social followers to a subscriber. It represents a group of people with a common interest.
COMMUNITY – a continual dialogue that goes beyond a customer/supplier relationship, by moving to a level of caring. Your contribution matters alongside the participation of others. The experience belongs to everyone.
Community brings people together.
Putting The Wider World Into Context
The recent BBC drama ‘The Moorside’ highlights this. It tells the story of nine year old Shannon Matthews who disappeared in 2008. It was later found that her mother, in a faked kidnapping, had hid Shannon. Sentenced to eight years in prison, Karen Matthews was released in 2012.
Rather than being about the story of the kidnapping it tells the story of a community that came together. For 24 days they bonded together, looked for clues, searched the local area and walked together. The community gave everything and contributed with one objective, to find a missing girl. You can now watch on iPlayer
The sense of togetherness was echoed throughout the Moorside estate and in the words of the vicar who helped during 2008, in an article in The Huffington Post, “I very much believe that if the same situation happened again, the same community spirit would kick in.”
The reason I am highlighting a BBC programme in a business context is that if there is a cause and responsibility set up, people will stand shoulder to shoulder.
It’s Going On
There are people around you that you would never have known before that are building their communities. From music and Ben Crowe in the Dorset countryside with Crimson Guitars through to Jimmy’s Iced Coffee and their Ride Club.
I am discovering and documenting how things are working with the You Are The Media Lunch Club. This is what I describe as my live blog.
This is where we move from audience (subscribers) and create community (an experience that belongs to everyone).
Have a read of this article for how everything works and why I do it.
It is a monthly lunchtime session (everyone gets lunch) where I highlight people and businesses who are building their audience via having ownership of the media that they have control or the practitioners that can give guidance ie. journalists, marketers.
This highlights the difference between audience and community.
AUDIENCE – the people who subscribe to the weekly You Are The Media email.
COMMUNITY – the people who come each month to be a part of the You Are The Media Lunch Club.
This is the main takeaway that I have found. I am the one who sets the agenda and the overall point of view focused on ownership (with an owned media/content marketing approach), but we talk together. I don’t talk at people, we share together.
People need to feel important and their point of view has to be valued and echoed. In the words of Seth Godin, “Connection and intimacy come from eye contact, from hearing and being heard, from an exchange of hopes and dreams.”
I am by no means there yet, this is something that is only starting to build momentum. Here are the things that I am learning from building this community. If you are looking to take this on board, here are eight key pillars to move from audience to community.
You have to be present (you show up)
If this was just a one off event or even worse a sporadic themed event that hardly ties in with what my business does, why should other people make that commitment too? I now realise that for people to give you something ie. time, they have to see that you are active.
You need a pointed idea
If the whole theme was a generic marketing message based on ‘how to build a strong brand to stand out,’ whist it may have attracted people during the early months, this would have then fallen by the wayside based on the generic angle.
By being focused on ownership and businesses controlling their own media, this allows direction for people to buy into straight away, rather than going around the business houses.
How you communicate is key
By building a community, there has to be a centre of communication. To some it may be an online forum, to some it may be a Slack group.
There has to be a core medium to address an audience. I am finding that community works when you bring people together. Whilst I acknowledge that geography limits people (would I say the same if this was in London?), what it does is encourage a two way flow on interaction and not waiting for someone else’s reply on Twitter.
There has to be something that you care about that connects
If you care about something and show it in a deeper context, this is what makes people say, ‘I’m in.’ When you care about something, it can build momentum. A lot of this comes from something personal. With the podcast and my writing, this is from within channels that I have control of that has enabled me to build audience, sell and build better customers. What is wrong with sharing this with open arms?
In a recent article by Mark Schaefer and reference to his latest book, Known and the people he interviewed, he states, “Every person told me about how their work had a positive impact on others. Everybody had a purpose besides just selling themselves, or selling a product. They had a deep sense of contributing to the world somehow.”
If you stay true, your community will find you
If you can be persistent and it is the point of view that carries you and not paid promotion, people have a path to follow. Sometimes paid promotion is like mowing a path to your door, which then overgrows and you have to bring the lawnmower out a couple of months later. Alternatively if you continually tend to it, kill the weeds, build a border, then you don’t need to make the quick solution that the answer has to be machinery.
You have to keep the fire burning
One of the most time consuming parts is to keep the logs burning. By this, you have to be completely on top of things and keep the community you are building regularly ‘prodded.’ By this I mean that people are contacted often or when another lunch session is on the horizon.
Keep a list of the people that attend and contact them often. If someone says they’re not going to participated anymore, then leave them alone, no one wants to be pestered.
It becomes the value added, not the main business focus
The main business would not be able to operate if it was just on events alone, but what it becomes is the touch point that creates value for someone else. To see people writing notes and showing focus during the lunchtime sessions gives enormous satisfaction that people are taking something away.
The reason to do it has to be about doing something you believe in, not finding a way to collect money in the shortest possible way.
The duty is not to grow but to continually feed it
Whilst I have spent some money on paid promotion on Facebook, it only generated prompts for people to buy, who have already attended a previous event.
The objective is not to throw the net out as wide as possible to encourage strangers to participate, but to maintain those people who come and take on a responsibility to make sure the initiative is consistent and people will always take something new away (which is why I have a guest that relates to the overall theme each month). The path is for people to subscribe to a weekly email and the next step is to make it face to face with the Lunch Club. People have to be fed with topics and insights that are relevant, based on the reason why they subscribed in the first place.
Lets Round Up
There are ways to contribute to your own ecosystem that you have a responsibility for. The secret ingredients (I believe) are to continually create that links back to an overall theme, that becomes the weight to share and communicate.
People will quickly find out if something comes across as false or has no meaning to participate. The objective is for others to take notice, come onboard and provide the momentum to build their own responsibility and persistent with their own efforts. From writing more through to progressing with a seed of an idea, this is how a community works when it becomes a place to collate thoughts, talk and everyone to have a shared interest.
When you genuinely believe in something and you don’t waver, it can shine through. When people feel part of it and there is a means to come together and share, it is in a totally different place from putting across a point of view from you to keyboard, microphone or camera.
Sometimes it can be isolating when you write, record and publish. Why do everything on your own when you can create bonds with other people? If what you create connects with others, you have ways to divide up the message.
We join communities because they represent an extension of ourselves and a voice that is acknowledged. It is not about liking a product or service. It is about creating a sense of belonging.
If you would like to be a part of the You Are The Media Lunch Club, it is the last Thursday of each month. The next lunch session is on Thursday February 23rd with co-author of Valuable Content Marketing, Sonja Jefferson.
Lets find out some new principals to live by, what defines content marketing success and how a business can grow an audience in increasingly crowded marketplaces.
Come and find out more here or you can book below.