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?

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