Community Building is like Making Friends

We’ve all done it. It can sometimes be difficult, but the rewards outweigh the effort.

It’s making friends.

Probably not the best way to build a community. Courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner.

Probably not the best way to build a community. Courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner.

Not everyone has built a community, but most people have made a friend or two. It’s tough, but in order to do it right, you have to put yourself out there, meet new people, figure out if you want to hang out again, and repeat.

Just like making new friends, there’s a lot to consider when starting a community. There’s no one answer, and there’s no wrong answer. It all depends on what is right for you and your community.

The readings this week, however, did give some great advice for community managers just starting out, and I think that across communities, these factors will hold true.

GET OUTSIDE

The key to making friends is that you need to get out of the house to do it. People can’t talk with your RSVP, just like a community can’t talk to your website updates. You need to be present for things to happen.

You are your community’s biggest asset – a human face, a personality, and a lot of passion. David Spinks hits the nail on the head when he says the key to building a community is doing it one person at a time.

Reaching out and making personal connections may take time, but there’s no point to being a community manager if you have no one in your community. So go out and make some friends.

PICK A PLACE

You can go to the club, the pub, or anywhere in between. Where you go depends on what you want, but it’s probably best to start small and make friends at the pub. Community building is like that, too.

In Buzzing Communities, author Richard Millington echoes Spinks when he says:

“A community should not target its entire possible audience in its launch.”

You should, however, target people with whom you know you’ll have something in common. The more focused your audience in the beginning, the faster and more clearly you will understand the dynamic and direction of your community.

HAVE A PLAN

It’s no fun to get to the pub and realize no one you can make friends with is there. Where did you go wrong?

Simple: you didn’t plan ahead.

When you’re making friends, you have to communicate with them to make plans. You can’t just show up at a pub and expect them to come to you.

Once you’ve made plans, next you need to execute and figure out how it went:

  • Did they show up?
  • Was it fun?
  • Did your new friend throw a drink in your face?

If the answers are yes, yes, and no … then you probably have a solid friendship starting.

This kind of thinking is equally important for community managers. At the beginning of the community lifecycle, it’s important to talk to people, but it’s also important to understand what your following wants.┬áHaving a focused audience not only helps you focus your community, but also lets you figure out data fast.

You already know the audience because that’s what you targeted – now look for what you couldn’t before.

  • Are people spending more time on your pages?
  • Is your audience growing?
  • Are they participating?

Use the answers to guide what you do next. If your friend gets drunk and throws drinks in your face every time, it’s probably time to hang out with her at the coffee shop for a little while.

Apply that same logic with your community. If they don’t respond to blogs about [relevant topic X], try posting about [relevant topic Y].

IT’S ALL ABOUT CONNECTIONS

You might not be a community managing pro yet, but odds are you’ve made friends in your lifetime. Stop over-thinking it and put those friend-making skills to good use. As a community manager, it’s all about making connections. Get out there, be yourself, and find others like you. Community will follow.

Do you think starting a community can be this easy at first? Also, what about personality types – are introverted community managers at a disadvantage in this respect?

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