You know you’ve created a strong community when it takes on a life of its own, going beyond you and your involvement.
Others taking from what you have created in this way is good. It’s what keeps you relevant in the eyes, hearts and minds of others.
This article is about how the community activity that happens independent of its creator’s involvement is essential proof of the strength of that community. And how that, far from sidelining the person at the helm, extends their, and everyone’s, opportunities and influence.
Let’s start off with a definition of the difference between an audience and a community:
AN AUDIENCE is made up of individuals who agree to receive information from you.
If the information strikes a chord, more of these individuals will come on board but there will always be that element of separation between “them (your audience) and you.” It’s hard work but you can grow and monetise your audience’s involvement with you.
A COMMUNITY grows from individuals coming together behind something more than a transactional agreement or subscription.
It’s a group of people who buy into a set of values or believe in a cause you’ve intentionally created for them to get behind. They form a deeper connection, rooted in this shared set of values or beliefs. They identify with it, they feel they belong and so are empowered to maintain and nurture this underlying belief themselves. This sense of kinship and belonging within a community means that things can happen without your directing them at all times. With this shared connection, your community shares in doing your work and it becomes far easier to grow, monetise and add value.
So why should you lean into others doing well out of something you’ve created?
Wouldn’t it be better if it stayed as something that was all about you?
Why would you want to encourage people within a network you’ve created to spread their wings and be active with others?
Creating a community, a space for people to belong to is, in itself, an act of generosity. If you’re able to step back and allow that community to collaborate and shape itself you’re cementing the central role you play. It’s far more than being altruistic. Trusting your community makes good commercial sense and enhances the benefits you, as the architect of that community, gain.
Sharing The Proof With You
Trisha Lewis’ experience offers an excellent example of this. Trisha is a member of the You Are The Media community and has recently started a podcast, Make It Real that takes a closer look at people who set great store by authenticity and sticking to their principles when it comes to business.
Starting a podcast and particularly one that is interview-based is never easy. You’re continually sourcing guests (predominantly strangers and, as time goes on, those with whom you may only have a loose connection) and may well find that the well soon runs dry.
Trisha reached out to the YATM community and built her schedule around people she’s already familiar with, who specialise in particular industry sectors and are noted within their professions. Her guests were connected to her and each other already so it was easier for them to say “yes” to her. The reach they had within their own sectors became Trisha’s, and so also YATM’s, reach too.
Here is what Trisha said, “There is no question that the amazing variety of individuals within the YATM community made a perfect place to start. I not only feel the community made things easier and more fun – I also give it credit for bringing me to a place where I put together this podcast about ‘being real as you grow your business’ – I feel real in this community!”
A second example is the launch of You Are The Media in Bristol in Autumn 2019. This is being managed and delivered by others with me having limited involvement.
Fleur Cook, who’s a part of the YATM community, wanted to stay connected to YATM when she moved to a new city. As a result, Fleur and Ben Roberts are now going to launch YATM Lunch Clubs in the centre of Bristol, starting in October.
The format will follow that of the Bournemouth YATM lunches but will be entirely led by Fleur and Ben. I won’t be hovering behind them or insisting they follow some template. This is entirely a means for them to see if YATM can find an additional audience in Bristol.
Both examples highlight how community members can make things happen. As the initial creator of a community you have to get comfortable with becoming an enabler and seeing this new role in a wholly positive light.
Members Reflect And Extend What You Set Out To Do
The thinking behind You Are The Media focuses on encouraging people and businesses to create their own spaces (be that, blog, podcast or video) for getting their message out to their audiences. This in turn, can help build deeper connection as well as sales.
This sense of autonomy is built into our ethos and so it’s natural that letting go is a natural part of how we believe a true community grows.
This is how the You Are The Media community journey progressed. This is also applicable to any number of small businesses, it worked like this:
– You create a flow of communication/content to people already in your network
– This attracts further subscriptions and sign ups
– You evolve your offering and those same people become further involved, i.e. they step away from behind a screen and become part of something live such as YATM Lunch Clubs, the Conference or other social events
– People start engaging with each other independently – the community takes on a life of its own and the real rewards start coming in
– The message that you originally started out with gets amplified by those within the community
– You let go, trusting your community to build and further develop their own relationships with each other.
What About You?
This act of letting go, where the community you’ve created becomes more autonomous, does not mean that you become irrelevant. Far from it, it ensures the community’s longevity, so increasing your personal return:
– You become a super-connector. Mutual bonds in business are important and the relationships people form within the community, both friendships and business collaborations, will have sprung from something that you created.
– You distinguish yourself from the competition. Through creating something bigger than yourself, that others freely engage with, you have proof of your (leadership) position in the marketplace.
– You attract recommendations back to your own business. This relates to your being visible and trusted, whereby you’ve given value to a point where people freely give back to you.
– You’re in a great position to extend your reach and influence. As your community grows and word spreads, you’re able to bring your members more value, e.g attracting world-renowned speakers to an event you’ve organised, which in turn makes your community better known, increasing the opportunities available to its members.
Creating a message that people believe in and can gather around is how an audience becomes a community.
When people within a community feel they belong and that their contribution matters, they become empowered to act independently. The community becomes a valuable resource – helping its members who both take from, and give back to, the group.
For you, as its creator, the community then becomes much more than a vehicle for attracting subscribers, generating leads or getting people to spend money with you.
The benefits that come back to your business and the community are multiplied and you find that in having put trust in your people (your community), you’ve built something with wider reach and relevance, bigger than you or your business. Something that gives even greater value through having a life of its own.