How To Create A Space For People To Belong
We all want to feel a part of something. Even the businesses we represent, connecting and relating to others shows who we are and the door we open for others to join in.
Companies that can figure out how to move an audience to the next stage of being a part of a community, where people belong, is becoming a serious business approach. It just depends on how much you are prepared to give, test and tune in.
This article focus is on helping people feel a part of the space you create for them. Let me share what I have learned and how to approach.
According to a recent article from McKinsey (Sep 2022) called ‘The Community Flywheel‘, “building long-term loyalty is both the greatest challenge and biggest opportunity that brands face.” According to the article, the “big idea” in 2020s marketing is community.
I like this graph as it shows that the days of mass media were something we all accepted as the norm. This is where a product or service would be vocal about its merits, whether you wanted to hear or not and we’d decide if it was relevant or useful. Not anymore. We’re now moving to a place where people can feel a part of something and be comfortable joining in. We can all grow together, with the effort and dedication we put in.
What It Means Today To Belong
It feels good to belong to something, but at the same time, there is a disconnect around us all.
The Tackling Loneliness annual report (February 2022) is in its third year by the government, so is acknowledged, but the reality shows a gap. According to the Social isolation and the brain in the pandemic era report (October 2022), almost one in ten Europeans never meet with friends and family outside of their household in the space of a year.
Even church attendance in England, which has symbolised community and belonging for centuries, have fallen by around 300k since 2009. A traditional source of gathering people together is now dwindling.
When we take a step back from a commercial perspective, feeling like you belong is where you are supported, listened to and valued. Not only that but you offer that bridge of support and attention to others. It becomes cyclical, others see you, and you see others. That’s how we form a sense of attachment and loyalty.
Shared values go a long way, even more so when you look after each other and understand each other.
How YATM Fostered That Belonging?
This idea of bringing people together is something I have always paid attention to. From the YATM in-person events since 2016 to switching to Zoom events in 2020, then reintroducing ways to come together in 2021, I’d like to think that I’m tuned into what is happening around us all.
It’s being around others that is important, and over time people feel at home.
The YATM central theme is around how people can build their own space and nurture their own audience where a social platform doesn’t own the database of people. As I began my endeavours to bring people together, I realised that I didn’t want to conform to what was already available.
For instance, this could be a networking event or it could be a gathering with no central theme, but where the thread was ‘business.’ To me, this would have been delivering what people have done for many years. It would have meant that I just fitted into what was out there and molded myself to the choices that are already available. I would be just adding to what is already out there.
If I decided to fit in, then that would have meant others also chose to fit in. This means we don’t appear as our normal selves, but more as a version that we want others to see. This could be businesslike or formal. This doesn’t help create a genuine sense of connection, more a way to sell what we produce to anyone who will hear and back to the graph at the top of the page.
By having the YATM events (online of offline) it encouraged people to feel a part of something (for instance, I loved seeing the Zoom chat during the pandemic when we had our online shows and people saying hello to each other). By keeping going with a schedule, people know the overall theme, the standard of delivery and the type of people who step forward with them. For me, I feel deeply connected and also a part of something with other people (this is why I believe that you are your audience).
Highlighting from my own perspective and what has happened over the years, it matters when:
🔆 Your audience knows you understand them
🔆 They can see you show up regularly (and not just when you feel like it)
🔆 Values are reflected on both sides
🔆 People can see you put in the time and effort
🔆 There are central themes to bind everything together
🔆Your delivery is not just part of a marketing campaign but a will to make something better.
When you lean into these you pull people to a place that no corporate brand could do. If you can do it with connection, intention, and lifting others, then you have made something worthwhile.
What You Can Do To Encourage People To Belong
When you cultivate a ‘we’ experience, people form an affinity with your efforts and cause. Here are some considerations to apply and for it to work on your side.
Know what makes you tick.
It is quite difficult to find your niche, which is why your niche often finds you. This comes down to what you stand for and believe in. To help people know that they belong to something, you have to craft a narrative that is central to what you do. Mine happens to be a Thursday newsletter. Yours could be a podcast. This way you can directly express your values.
The intention of connection.
When you connect with a stranger on a social platform, for the most part, people keep them as strangers. If you intentionally want to connect and show people where there could be a common ground (the point above), you turn away from those who won’t be interested, but also find stronger connections. For me, the goal is to start by inviting people to subscribe to the weekly newsletter.
Devote time to create something people haven’t seen.
The community can become part of the project and have even more value than the project. For instance, what if a conference-themed event devoted the afternoon for people to work together? At the YATM Creator Day, the afternoon was dedicated to projects with people working together to create something of value that they may have never delivered before. This brings people together even more, when they may not have been familiar a few hours earlier.
Experiment with the people who commit.
When people decide to subscribe, it is then your responsibility for them to join in and feel included. When you work side by side with others, it’s what we all need. From YATM Learning with Matt King to YATM Game Nite with Liam Toms to YATM Lunch Club with Catherine Adams and Fleur Cook it’s all about testing out what direction flows and people to feel at home.
Find a label for everyone.
I don’t know who came up with it, but people who are a part of the You Are The Media community are known as YATMers. When you discover a label for people to say, ‘I’m a part of this too’ it becomes self-reinforcing.
Continually look at nurturing the shared space.
As people join in, it has to be a continual goal to make your space feel right for others. What it does is provide security and support, not just for others, but how it supports your commercial endeavours. You have to spend time in making sure that what people are going to belong to is going to connect with them, that it becomes a part of their week/month. A place to be inspired from and reach out to does take dedication.
The Purpose For People To Belong
When you look beyond content creation and a return for your efforts, you make a reason for people to assemble and feel a part of what you do. This can become rewarding for everyone involved.
This is what I have seen and now recognise. I wouldn’t know this if I didn’t have You Are The Media as my project that encourages people to belong.
You make something with the goal to:
Encourage people to step up and have their turn. You make the space for everyone to play in and have an opportunity to deliver.
Hear what others have to say. You make the space for everyone to have a voice, not just one directional traffic from you.
Test out ideas. You make the space to put your neck on the line and push the envelope, but also to work in unison with the people who choose to dedicate their time.
Know there are people around each other. You make the space so no matter how bad things get in the world around us, you’ll always be connected and find strength in each other.
Improve your own work. You make the space to be better at your own skills so you share with those around you.
Learn from each other. You make the space where other skillsets, capabilities and talents are recognised. The ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ saying is very true.
Be continually inspired. You make the space to find sparks. You can’t just rest on your laurels. As people want to join in, it presents new opportunities and new ways for you to learn. This is refreshing when it is the group that motivates you and enables you to develop as a person.
Make a difference as a collective. You make the space so what begins as a solitary voice, starts to find momentum. Connections are made, relationships are formed and people belong to something that feels worthwhile.
Belonging represents empowerment, competitive advantage and in the words of Brene Brown, ‘the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.’
When you look to serve others based on your values, not fitting in and finding a place you cannot stop, it becomes attractive for others to make that step. It also makes you realise that when it comes to people belonging to something, producing content is not enough. It’s about welcoming people and how we can unite each other.
This is still from a business context and how you find longevity in your efforts. What matters is your willingness to give back to others. What was once the ability to direct a message is now a way for others to be a part of the conversation and to make the continual effort much stronger from what started. Progress is at the heart of what is around us all when we come together.