How to Build a Community, fast and in the right way
Community is important for all websites. It’s the foundation on which the success of an online business is built. If you want to succeed online, then it’s time to learn how to build a community. Building a community is one of the toughest things to do on the internet.
We’ve all heard the stories of creators and their communities. The most famous of which is Phil DeFranco. He has gained the trust of a group of people that would watch every video he produced, and this community eventually grew into a business that allows Phil to live off online entertainment full time. If your goal is to create online content, you’re going to have to take steps toward building a strong community around you.
The best thing you can do is understand how other communities are being built out there so that you know what you are getting yourself into. Whether you want to sell a product, or service, or get your name out there, building a community around your idea is the best way to go about it. You get people who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing, who may believe in what you do, and who will help your idea grow in the process.
Table of contents
Why build a Community
Businesses, like people, are social. However, most people do not realize this. They think a company is like a machine, something designed to do a job. The job of a company, they say, is to make money. Any machine can do that. But the nature of a business is different. A business is a community. Thus it becomes important to learn how to build a community, more so because:
- A business is a community with common interests. A community is what a group of people does together.
- A business is a community with shared goals. A goal is a value. A community has goals and a business has goals.
- A business is a community with shared responsibilities. Responsibility is an obligation and a business has responsibilities.
- A business is a community with shared resources. A resource is something you have and a business has resources.
- A business is a community with a shared history. History is the story of a company and a business has a history.
- A business is a community with a shared purpose. A purpose is a reason a company exists and so a business has a purpose.
Some people, when they hear this, think this seems nice but impractical. How can a company have a purpose? How can a community have purposes? How can a business have a history?
Well, they do. These are very common concepts. We could easily imagine a company without a purpose, a community without a purpose, or a business without a purpose. In fact, most of the big companies we know, most big companies in the developed world, do not have a purpose. They just exist. But there are millions of people working on these companies, and millions of people are proud and happy to work for them.
Now that you have understood the importance of building a community. Let us dive right into how to build a community.
Start by pinpointing your niche
The first rule of building a community is to know what your people will want. The corollary is that knowing what they want gives you a head start on getting it. So the next step is to figure out what your people don’t want. Again, it’s easy. People don’t want what they aren’t allowed to get.
Once you know what your people want, you can give it to them. And if you do that often enough, your people will come to want more of what you have to offer. Once you have your people, you have an audience. A community of like-minded people. And an audience is power.
But a community needs more than an audience. It needs a community. You need to give them a chance to get to know each other. You need to give them a chance to work with each other. You need to give them something to work with.
Rules to build a community
- The first rule of building a community is to know what your people will want.
- The second rule is to give them something fun to do together.
The secret of building community, like the secret of building wealth, is specialization.
The traits that make a person good at one kind of work (say, being a teacher or a scientist) won’t help at all at something else (say, being an athlete or a politician).
But the same traits are useful in both. So try to find your niche, and focus on building a community there.
A lot of would-be entrepreneurs try to build a business by taking on too many functions. They don’t see where their weaknesses are, so they try to do everything. Their business plan is, let’s please everybody. The danger in this approach is that if you try to please everybody, you please nobody.
But there is an easier solution. You can find your specialty or niche by focusing on one function and doing it the best you can. Then build a community around that.
Think about how you can make a new product or service even better. What would you do today that you wished you could do tomorrow? How can you make it better? Then do it.
Community is easiest to build when you help other people solve a problem. But you have to know what problem to solve. So do your homework. Ask your friends. Ask your relatives. What problems are they having? Then solve it.
When you help solve the problem, you establish yourself as an expert. You become a trusted adviser, and people come to you for advice.
That is the right way how to build a community.
Content is King in order to build a community
The way Web communities work, content is what ultimately matters. Content is what attracts other people, content is what keeps them coming back. Content is, of course, not the only thing that matters. But it’s no small thing. And content is, in fact, easy. You can produce content, and content is what attracts other people.
Most Web communities don’t create content, though. They curate content. They organize other people’s content. They respond to other people’s content. Instead of creating content, they link other people’s content.
But it’s a mistake to think that only the people who use a community create content. The people who create communities are the people who contribute to what the community needs. These contributions are more than just links. They are comments, replies, upvotes, downvotes, and all the other things content systems use to sort and organize content.
The Web is a network of networks. Communities are collections of communities. And each community has to find its own way.
Content is the thing communities need. Content is what attracts other people. Content is what makes it worth somebody’s while to participate. Content is what keeps people coming back. Content is king. Thus in order to learn how to build a community, you ought to learn how to create content that is engaging.
Don’t be afraid to try out different platforms
If you’re new to building online communities, you’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. But you may not know which platform is right for you. Thus in order to learn how to build a community, it is important to learn about various platforms. And to choose the platform that suits you the best.
The choice is not obvious though. At one level, it’s an academic question, about which platforms are best for which kinds of communities. On another level, it’s a marketing question, about which platforms are most likely to attract the kind of people who will join your community. And at some level, it’s a personal one: you want to build a community, but you don’t just want any community, you want a community that will be happy to live where you choose to build it.
There are differences (some of them important) between the platforms, but the differences can be less important than the impression they give of themselves. Facebook is for socializing, Twitter is for short, sharp exchanges of information, and blogs are for long-form expression.
It may be true that Twitter is best for small, focused communities. It’s also true that Facebook is best for large, fast-growing communities. The differences are less important than the impression they give of themselves. And the impression matters a lot. There are, however, some platforms that are less well known but are worth considering.
So in order to be able to build a community, it is important to try out all the various platforms at your disposal and figure out which one/ones suit your requirements the best. Now that we have learned how to build a community, the next part is to understand how to grow it.
Promote your community with a growth hacking mindset
Growth hacking is the application of Lean Startup principles to community building. The goal is to identify and grow high-value communities. The essence of growth is community. If you have enough of it, you grow. That seems obvious. But these days, too many people confuse community with membership. Membership is important but it isn’t enough.
People join communities in order to grow. A community exists when its members create value for each other. A community can develop and thrive without everyone in it being a paid-up member. Most communities start small. Some start big, like Facebook. But most start out small, and most of them die.
Growth hacking is about building something that can survive and grow. Growth hacking is about building a community.
In the twenty-first century, growth hacking is much more than a slogan. It’s the best tool we have for thinking about and solving problems as communities. Growth hacking is a mindset and an approach to problem-solving, not a set of techniques.
In order to grow, communities need to find creative ways to attract new members and turn them into engaged contributors. But even the best communities can fail to do these things. Sometimes people join but don’t contribute. Sometimes people contribute for a while, but then get bored.
Growth hacking is about understanding these problems and coming up with solutions that work. It’s about developing a deep understanding of a community’s problems and coming up with creative solutions.
The mindset of growth hacking can be applied to solving problems of any kind. It is not limited to startups or how to build a community. It applies to everything from how to attract more people to how to keep existing people engaged and contributing. Growth hacking is about finding creative ways to do things.
Create community policies for participation
The Internet has made many things better, but it hasn’t made most of them better. The things that it does have made better are not ones that governments or corporations could have invented. The Internet has made the creation of community possible. This has happened in two areas.
- First, the Internet has made it possible for large numbers of people to act together. A community could be one member, or it could be millions of people.
- Second, the Internet has made it possible for a very large number of people to communicate with one another. A person’s group identity is no longer defined by where they went to school or where they work, but by what they talk about online.
What the internet has not done is that the Internet has not created a new community policy. A community policy takes many forms. It could be a set of laws. It could be a set of procedures. It might be a set of agreements, but most importantly a community policy has two important features:
- first, it privileges certain forms of participation over others.
- second, it guarantees certain rights for participants.
A community policy could decide, for instance, that certain types of speech would be prohibited, or that certain actions would be prohibited. It might even ban certain kinds of speech outright, as hate speech laws are supposed to do.
But a community policy is of limited practical use. The Internet has made it possible for millions, or billions, or trillions of people to come together. But the Internet also has made it possible for them to all talk to each other at once. Speech that disrupts, or is disruptive, is always going to be a problem.
A community policy can’t solve the problem without putting the people in power who control the policy in an impossible position. They can’t ban everything, because the Internet is too big. And if they try to ban everything, they will start violating the policy themselves.
Rather a community policy should and does act like a hindrance or a level of control in order to ensure that the communities being built are not being misused and everyone in them is getting fair treatment. Having a safe and secure environment in and around the community would ensure that more and more members are drawn to it and can participate in the community in a healthy and productive manner.
Building a community has proven to be one of the most important factors if one wishes to grow their business online. And building a community requires constant focus, dedication, and engagement due to the vast number of alternatives available. And on top of learning how to build a community, it is of paramount importance to develop proper community policy as well. This would ensure that the community is safe and that it keeps on prospering.