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What is Community and How Do I Build One?

A really common job title that you’re starting to see crop up in corporate America is “community manager.” Marketing departments are striving to build “community.” But… what do they mean by community? Can companies have one? How do you get one? Can you buy one? What‘s the value of a community?

What is a community?

A community is a group of people that have come together for a common cause or purpose. They’re united in wanting to accomplish something. They support eachother in doing that one thing.

For example, you likely have a neighborhood association. This is a community of people that want to maintain your neighborhood as a great place to live. They’ll schedule meetings, hold events, and raise money to that end.

As a new dad, I’ve been looking into a lot of dad groups. These are amazing communities where dad’s can give advice, help, and support eachother as they walk through this new chapter of their lives. (Coincidentally, this is a market opportunity. There doesn’t seem to be disapproprinate amount of new mom stuff vs new dad stuff.)

Can corporations & products have communities?

Yes and no.

No in the sense that a community doesn’t just form of people that are passionate about a product. People don’t care about what a product is. People care about what a product does for them and how it enhances their life. Thus in the same manner, as we talked about earlier, communities form around a common vision, purpose, or goal.

Apple is famous for not marketing the specifications for their computers, tablets, and phones(like their competitors do) but showing people using Apple products doing the things that they’re passionate about. Apple users are part of the greater creative class. They’re tinkerers. You see this manifest itself in the most concentrated sense in things like Apple User Groups.

WordPress is the blog/content management platform produced by the team at Automattic. It’s powers a good portion of the internet. They have user conferences across the globe called WordCamps. At these conferences, WordPress user get together to discuss the latest innovations within the platform and its extensions.

But I contend that WordPress community isn’t really about WordPress. It’s a community of users that contribute to a product that gives users a platform for more effortless self-expression. This higher purpose is what captivates people around the world to be part of the WordPress community.

Yours Probably Already Exists.

So, now you’re thinking… I gotta go build a community for the higher purpose that my product wants to advance. HOLD UP! Chances are the ideal community for your company already exists.

I was doing a mentoring for a company in Northern California that distributed children’s books via tablet devices. Their ideal audience is moms. There are so many mom groups, mom blogs, mom forums. There are so many communities of moms supporting other moms in every city in the world, it’s hard to know where to start. I told the company founder about a story time that happened at an independent bookstore that wasn’t far from their office.

An incredible resource for finding offline communities where they exist already is Meetup.com. The site is a platform for groups or communities of a common goal to come together, communicate, plan, and meet with one another. It’s become very successful and thus Meetup.com has an incredible directory of communities that already exist across the globe.

Why Does My Company Need To Belong To A Community?

By being the chief user of your product and being part of a community, you get to meet and interact with real people that are facing the problems that your product is solving. By being an expert in how to solve the problem, it positions you as a leader. It’ll help you to identify potential customers which will lead to more signups and sales.

What does your product do? What communities are you apart of?

When a Burger is More Than Just a Burger

I really love a good burger but sometimes a burger is more than just a burger.   Just saw a post over on Eater about the lines in London for the opening of their first Shake Shack.

I’ve walked pat Madison Square Park in NYC.  At any point in the day, there’s a 30 min line to get to the Shake Shack stand.   I’ve seen Twitter accounts that tell you how long the line is.  It’s incredible.

DC had a Shake Shack and I went there a few times.  It’s good.  It’s not amazing but it’s good.  It’s cheaper than Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR.   People in DC did go crazy for it.   As a matter a fact, they just opened up a second (and maybe third) location.

The key is that for Shake Shack a burger isn’t just a burger.  Yes, people go there to be fed but, at least for the ones who stand in line when a new shop launches, a burger at Shake Shack is about more than just getting sustenance.

A Shake Shack burger is about an escape.  It’s about comfort.  It conjures up memories of something from the past that makes you feel good.    That’s what people stand in line for.

Eating a Shake Shack burger also makes you look cool.  The last decade has really seen the start of consumer-friendly designer food brands.   It’s cool to be seen eating a Shake Shack Burger or In ‘n Out.  It’s cool to be seen eating a Sprinkles or Georgetown Cupcake.

If you’re working on a product or service that you’re offering for your business, how do you go beyond just satisfactorily meeting your requirements?  How do you help go beyond?  How do you make your product cool or make the people who use it cool?

Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, NV

IMG_0887Lauren and I have some friends in town this weekend. Thought this would be a great opportunity to continue our quest for the best burger in America.  Had seen the restaurant Gordon Ramsay BurGR pop up on lists and you can’t help but see advertisements for it around Las Vegas.  We just had to try it.

So, I went on their website.  It gave me a number to call for reservations.  I called to get transferred to 3 different people, to inevitably find out that they don’t take reservations.  Bummer.

On Friday night, we embarked towards Planet Hollywood.  There was bad traffic around the strip.  It was the Friday of a holiday weekend.   We eventually found self parking and found our way through the maze of the Miracle Mile shops and the wannabe modern Planet Hollywood Casino.

It ended up being about an hour and a half wait to get a table, which was fine.  We got some drinks.  We wandered down to the Bellagio, watched the fountains, and admired their indoor garden.  Eventually, we got the magical text that our table was ready.

The first thing that you notice when you walk into BurGR is pictures of Gordon Ramsay (see below) and fire everywhere.   His initials are also emblazoned everywhere, including the waiter/waitresses overly short and tight uniforms.   The narcissism is slightly annoying but you get over it once the food and drinks come out.

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The drinks menu was a vintage iPad, which was interesting.  The beer list had craft beers, which was great but were all fairly mainstream craft beers.   The waiter pointed out that Innis & Gunn was Gordon’s favorite beer and that it aged in a combo rum/whiskey cask.  Decided to give it a shot.   I really enjoyed it.  Had a lot of great flavor.

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Then we moved on to appetizers.  Opted for the Jalapeño Poppers.   The jalapeño sticking out of a cheese-filled shot glass is overly phallic looking.   (Isn’t this the kind of thing that Gordon would make fun of people for on Hell’s Kitchen?)   In the end, it was delicious.  It wasn’t overly spicy, which I liked, but there was some spice for flavor, plus cheese.  :-)

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On to the main event… I ordered the Farm Burger.  I was initially waffling between the Euro Burger and the Farm Burger.   The waiter told me the Farm Burger was his favorite.   It was a half pound burger, sharp cheddar cheese, duck bacon, and a farm fresh fried egg.   It was delicious.  Oh and it was one of the first times I’ve ordered a burger medium at a restaurant and it actually came out medium.   It was delicious.

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Then we opted for the truffle fries.  The basket was massive.  It had truffle oil, shaved parmesan, and a truffle aioli to dip them in.  I’m a big fan of the thick cut fries over the small shoe-string variety.   The only problem was the truffle aioli ran out way too quickly. :-)

Net net… I really enjoyed Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR.  The wait to get in and lack of reservations was slightly annoying but once we sat down, I really enjoyed everything.  Plus for what you’re getting, the prices aren’t too bad.  It’s cheaper than some of the other “high end” burger places in Las Vegas.

It’s too hot in Vegas to wear pants.

local-weather-alertSo yeah… it gets really hot in Las Vegas.  I think it was 110 degrees out when I went to bed last night.   It makes night swimming pretty wonderful but during the day, you just don’t wanna go outside.  It’s a dry heat in Las Vegas so it’s definitely preferable to 90 degrees with 100% humidity that we would have gotten on the East Coast.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve had a number of business meetings with non-startup people.   If you’re a woman, you can wear a skirt and still be in “business attire.”  For a guy, you have to wear pants.   You don’t look very business-like when you’re rockin’ a pear of shorts, even if they’re nice shorts.   BUT it’s hot.

Men of the Las Vegas business community, can we all agree that it’s crazy hot outside?  If we need to go to a business meeting, it’s okay to rock a pair of dress shorts and not be judged.  Cool?  K, thanks!

Blue Bottle’s New Coffee Prep Guides

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Artisan coffee shop chain and roastery Blue Bottle has just redesigned their website.   It’s GORGEOUS.   It includes some really beautiful guides for the different methods to prepare coffee.   My favorite method is drip using a pour-over.   If you were looking for help improving your morning coffee, I’d check it out.

Fascinating Video Interview with Evan Williams

Evan Williams is someone who’s made an incredible mark on the Internet.  He founded Blogger, co-founded Twitter, and is working on his third startup Medium.   Below is a video interview that he did with Google Ventures Partner Kevin Rose for his interview series Foundation.   It’s about an hour long but totally worth the watch.