How To Grow A Community Within One That Already Exists
You can make people stay with you in the places away from where everyone else is.
People stay when you make yourself a worthwhile member of a community, that is already in place.
Whether someone else feels underserved, an offering is replicated somewhere else or there is something that they are unfamiliar with, the unaccustomed becomes the hook to grow from.
When there is already a community in place, there is an opportunity to build something that others can become a part of, but has not been in place before.
Know The Role You Serve
I now realise that the answer is not just in blogging, going full blown on LinkedIn, or ramping it up on Instagram, but having a clear path to what you are producing and the audience it is targeted at. Once you have this firmly in place, you can then focus on the tactics (the blog, the email, the podcast) you want to become dedicated to.
I have seen this during 2017 and the initiatives to bring people together around different themes. From a regional level, ExperienceUX have carved a space to share the practice of UX via their UXBournemouth events. They have kept this as a continual presence throughout the year and will bring this will back in March 2018 with Paul Boag as their main speaker.
Their clear path is to share with others how to create an enhanced experience. It is not for everyone, but for those who want to continue their own path of learning that has a UX theme at the core of it.
On a personal brand level, 2017 You Are The Media Podcast guest Jake Moore, cyber crime prevention office from Dorset Police, knows what he is producing. His message is centred on how we all need to be more secure when it comes to our online presence. It just so happens that having a clear path makes it easier to produce ongoing videos, produce a monthly email and for others to make that connection and make that step to find out more.
Jake has been consistent throughout 2017, from talking at conferences even to smaller local events, he has had a presence that is now being recognised Channel 4 have recently approached Jake, we discussed that in the show (click here to have a listen).
What these examples both highlight is the ability to be helpful.
The examples from a company and also an individual both share a message within a community that is already in place.
It all comes down to moving away from the sameness that is out there and growing something that is underserved. For instance, there is plenty of networking out there, but how about one that is centred on learning about UX? There is plenty of information about cyber crime out there, but why not give it personality from a person who can do it with knowledge as well as connect with?
Always Be At The Front Of The Orchestra
When there is an area of interest, it makes things so much clearer as long as you are continually present to orchestrate the conversation.
I have found this challenging, but getting their with the whole You Are The Media project. I am now crystal clear that the dialogue we create has to be centred around the audience we build and loyalty generated, rather than throw the net out for any old stranger who types something in a keyword search.
When you create your own community and make others feel like they are part of something, this surpasses any good Google Adwords week, or the leads that come in via the contact form. When you move away from the places that already exist, where we are all on, but nurture new spaces where people can congregate, spend time, share, network and learn becomes a place where everyone adds value and can become stronger.
What Does It Mean To Others?
I set up the You Are The Media project as a way to share my perspective when it comes to an owned media approach and then from the growth of subscribers on a local level, create something that serves others with a one-to-one event. So, what does this mean to them, rather than me telling you what I believe?
Gordon Fong, from Datacenta Hosting is a person who has been with the You Are The Media Lunch Club since it began in summer 2016. What has Gordon taken from the You Are The Media project this year?
Gordon explains, “When I stepped into Mark’s fledgling Lunch Club event, where I thought there would be dozens of experienced marketers, or is it marketeers? (see I don’t even know that), and other digital animals, my first thought was “This is going to be awkward”. The format however, as an informal welcoming hour or so for people to gather, over some food with no table settings, is what made it really work.”
“The talks ranged across a diversity of topics and business sectors but always with an emphasis on creating an interesting mix. What also emerged was a common thread of honesty and storytelling. Not one ego on stage to be seen. Mark would mention what other people had been doing and really showing that the event was about us in the end.”
“Recently I have proactively connected people to other people, to ease them into the Lunch Club or to get in front of the Bournemouth Echo and a local school. I felt happily duty bound from the kindness of others.”
What About You?
It is time to stop telling everyone that you know better in a sea of expertise where everyone is now sounding the same.
Those people where it is working are providing something different where people currently reside, but to recognise that they are not here for everyone.
It is easy to tell others how to write a headline, when to send a tweet or how to use Facebook Live, as everyone else is.
What is important is to create a space that is currently empty and bring people over to that. This is what I have done, found out what works and will continue to do so.
From my experience, here is how you can approach this to build something that is yours within a space that currently exists, but to create your own market.
Become an ally to each other. The comments from Gordon, above, shows an element of trust and connection. I wouldn’t ask for a comment from someone who has came to one Lunch Club and deleted themselves from the email list three months ago. Interaction is two way, it takes time, but it works when you show an interest in someone else.
Get others thinking. If the whole You Are The Media Project was just a local networking event, it would defeat the point, this place is already over utilised and saturated. My approach has been centred around the themes of ownership, creation and loyalty and has become a lot more apparent during 2017. I was in danger of sounding like another marketing company ie. why you need to consider content marketing to deliver value, so I had to find another space that adopts the same thinking but makes things a lot more easier to understand but for people to make relevant in their own context.
Always provide value. In my instance, this has been writing each week and sharing a perspective that takes in my own experiences, what others are doing and how it all ties in with building a space that people want to stick around. What you distribute doesn’t have to be weekly, but often enough for people to differentiate what you do, with what else they receive.
Bring others into the conversation. Rather than think you have to spend your time in someone else’s space in order to gain recognition and credibility, you can start introducing other channels that people would prefer. For instance, in the past couple of months, the You Are The Media Podcast has been introduced that still follows the themes of loyalty, ownership and creation. The reason this was relatively straightforward to introduce was because other people were already familiar.
Find the people who have the same interests. When you find the industry connection with others, it helps make the overall picture clearer for people who are just starting to become familiar with you. For instance, in 2013 I started the Talking Content Marketing project where I interviewed nearly 100 marketers, with a heavier slant to those taking on board a content marketing approach. This helped align myself within an industry practice.
Google/Facebook etc owes you nothing. No one ever said your work deserves to be found by Google. Facebook can take anything away from underneath you whenever they feel like it. You can’t live your life doing everything the way that someone else wants you to do it. You can’t rely on the spaces where everyone else treats as the gospel, as they are all praying at the same church.
Do the things opposite to everyone else. The recent You Are The Media Annual Awards had a certain rawness about it. It was an awards evening, but no one sat down as though they were about to eat a three-course dinner, it didn’t drag on into the evening and it celebrated the work of people and not a faceless organisation. When the 2018 event happens next December, if this became a seated event, it starts to become just like every other award event.
Lets Round Up
We all buy from people we like. If we happen to be in place where others can take value from a place that is under-utilised then you are in a far stronger place.
In an interview with Chris Brogan in a Talking Content Marketing article from 2014 he said, “The moment we feel ANY kind of connection to others, we have the great opportunity to feel any kind of affinity with someone whatsoever. That’s the biggest goal.”
Whatever you start, you have to be committed to. From using the example from a business and an individual earlier in this article, what it shows are projects that have been in place for a length of time, but continually deliver value. It all comes from treating people as though they feel a part of something where the door is always open and the interest and conversation is two-way.
When you treating others as though they are part of a close family and not a transaction, they will rarely feel the need to go elsewhere.