Build Community

How to get people to ❀️ your brand

This is Bye, Social Media!, where you can learn everything you need to build a thriving solo-business independent from social media.

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Hiya,

In today’s edition, you’ll learn about how to build a community around what you do.

Do you remember when I told you that marketing was about people? It truly is.

The human element is especially important for solopreneurs. Even if you dream of having an audience of 100k+ on day - at the end of the day, it’s still about people. People follow and connect with you because you have something they want, because of your point of view, or because your funny AF.

Yet, how can you be more intentional about that in your business? I find community-building quite elusive.

How do you build community in a way that’s warm and inviting, not transactional?

A community can be one of the most powerful off-socials marketing tools there is. And it’s more than that. It nourishes the human aspect of life online.

I like that. Let’s see how we can achieve it below.

Meet the Expert

Sarah Greisdorf is a Community Manager at Squarespace. She also writes an insightful newsletter on communities you can sign up for here.

I met Sarah through a conference she was organizing and immediately appreciated her warmth and openness towards people.

She never made it feel like we were part of a community to be managed, but like we were at a gathering of maybe-soon-to-be friends. This was remarkable, especially given the distance between us at the time.

I think Sarah is the perfect person to give us an introduction to community-building. I’m excited to have her on the newsletter.

How To Build Community

1. For those uninitiated: What does building community mean? What's the difference between a community and an audience?

Building community is the act of gathering people around a shared interest, purpose, or mission. The beauty of community building is that it can be equally intentional and impactful whether it’s a formal community or an informal gathering of friends.

What makes a community different from an audience is that an audience receives information or content in a one to many capacity while communities give and receive information in a many to many capacity. With an audience, the value comes from one person or organization sharing information, whereas with a community, the value comes from everyone that is engaging in the gathering.

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2. How can you create community around what you do? It feels quite complex and like you need to be in your inbox 24/7 to nurture and engage people. Is there a way to do it that feels good to people and good to the person building a community?

People need communities of all sizes and levels of formalization for a healthy social life. I believe nearly every community should start as a group chat with a couple of interested folks. There’s no need to build out an entire infrastructure for a community that does not exist.

Start by understanding the purpose of why you are gathering. A monthly book club with friends is a community, but it doesn’t need members to be nurtured or moved through a funnel like a product community might. Start by understanding your why and then build systems to support the community as the need arises. I have a newsletter on this here.

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3. Any tips for introverts on how to build community?

Focus on building community around something you’re already passionate about. Being in community should fuel you and make you more excited about the interest, purpose, or mission you are gathering around. Whether you need a little time or a lot of time to recover after being with others, being in spaces talking about things you care about is always energizing.

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4. Can you share one to three common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make in community building and how to fix them?

Building and assuming people will come

The best time to invest in a community is when people have been expressing a desire to gather. Don’t spend time building a community, and especially don’t invest in infrastructure, without first proving that people want what your community will offer.

Being afraid to pivot

Not every program or initiative you launch with your community will resonate with them. Don’t be afraid to pivot and invest your time in trying new programming that will have a great impact.

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5. Does community building mean you need to have a community or group on Slack, Mighty Networks, or Facebook?

Definitely not! Some of the richest communities operate in a group chat. Keep it light weight until you need something more. You’ll know when it’s the right time to grow.

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6. Anything else you wish I had asked you?

The community industry is new, building community isn’t.

While there are a lot of ways to build a very organized and thoughtful community, when I think back on my favorite gatherings, they are often the ones that were spurred by someone taking the initiative to plan a fun girls night or gather a few folks in my industry for dinner.Β 

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The Strategic View on Community Building

What I like most about community-building is the human element in it. Social media has turned us into sole fighters over the past decade.

While a healthy sense of self is helpful for connecting with others, social media and the turn towards personal branding has hollowed out our relationships*. Is that person your online friend or do you have a parasocial relationship with an influencer?

I think there’s something so refreshing when it feels like you’re talking to an actual person, not a digital avatar with Instagram face. How fun is it to gather around a digital (or real) campfire and connect with others on a shared interest or like (and dislike)?

As a solopreneur, it’s impossible to compete on scale. You simply don’t have the resources to do so. You can compete and build your business on the basis of being human and connecting with others. We’ve neglected that in the past decade because of socials.

I think that’s a great silver lining to embrace - especially when marketing is challenging to you.

Marketing has been and will always be about people and their needs. How can you meet them?

And make sure to sign up for Sarah’s newsletter here.

Happy Marketing,

Johanna πŸ“£

Notes:

*If you want to dive deeper on this, I recommend this essay. It’s a sociologist’s point of view on the impact of hyper-customization and -individuality in the economy and culture on our lives. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a dense read if you’re not familiar with the lingo. At the same time, it offers an interesting point of view and helpful explanation on why we’re struggling to find our place in the world in the age of social media and beyond.

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