The following insight came from my podcast interview with David Berkowitz, where he talked about starting a community from scratch.
More and more, when I introduce myself somewhere, I start with the community. Because I know that the community will be likely to provide some value to the people I’m talking with. Now my consulting will give a hell of a lot of value to me and for the right person. It’ll provide tremendous value, but maybe that’s like, I’m talking to someone who I know I can benefit in that way through that kind of work relationship. But if it’s someone in marketing, it could be like 50 to 90% of the time that my community can help them.
I have much more open criteria for who can join my community. I talk to folks that I go to some online networking event or meet someone referred to me. They’re someone straight out of school or in school, but they have a passion for marketing. I’m like, “please come to my community.” You’ll probably get something out of it, but I want that energy in my community. So it’s not based on their resume. It’s just based on who they are, maybe what they’re doing.
To this day, I welcome every new member who posts their introduction in the lounge. I encourage them to do so. And I respond personally to every single one of those. But, also, I’m not there. I don’t need to respond to every single post. It’s like, trying to be too much the center of things is what I wanted to avoid. So I think just being there to facilitate things. But not be like a mother hen sitting on top of every single chick there and doing things that may have even fostered more engagement early on.
Be more of that fantastic party host. I took a little bit more of a reserved approach but ideally, and if that will work strategically or not, at least allowed more room for members to surface things themselves and keep themselves at the center of things and not just me.
My advice is: if the community you want to join doesn’t exist, you should start it. That’s what I did. To do that, first of all, start by defining your business; you need to know what your community stands for. Then, find the best ways to connect with your community and focus on community-specific products and content, keeping your target customers in mind. And always keep updating, monitoring, and upgrading, keeping a check on customer engagement.
I think it’s a lot easier if you are fully committed to either having a free community that either you have a business that’s behind you backing it, and the community’s like a marketing arm of it. Or you’re charging from day one, and you might tweak the pricing over time, but you know that this is a paid community.
A community is a cause and a movement. People come to your community believing that they will achieve something unique together and that you will lead them there. Building a community takes time, effort, and passion, but the result is something incredible.