An African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe this is true. I can't imagine where in this world my baby boy would be without the love, support and nurturing of those in our community.
I am also lucky enough to be a member of a more specific community of new moms. That’s us up there in the photo. Bi-weekly we meet in each other’s living rooms, put on a pot of coffee and ventilate our baby woes, share stories and experiences, learn from one another, laugh together, reassure each other that we are doing just fine and, most importantly, we remind each other that we are not going this motherhood thing alone.
Much like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise a brand.
This is the next lesson in a series of posts about what my infant son has taught me about life and content marketing (here's lesson 1).
1. A community is the sum of its parts
I will never forget the music to my ears that was a fellow expectant mom exclaiming, “we should get together for regular coffee and Bailey’s gatherings after our babies are born.” I'm not sure if I was more excited to fathom a social life after baby, or the ability to finally enjoy an alcoholic beverage again. In any case, she was the leader our mommy community needed.
You see, it takes a leader to get a community going, and then it takes keen individual interest to keep it going. We mommies are fortunate to have all the right ingredients for a healthy community.
2. A community is more than just information sharing.
Sure, we get together and talk about the best baby rearing practices, articles we've read, developmental milestones and statistical norms, but these discussions alone are not what gel our community together.
This stuff we can get from the googles.
The cohesion of community goes beyond information sharing. A community is formed around a common goal, an emotional connection, a shared opinion, a sense of security, belonging and ownership, safety, non-judgement, protection and understanding. We have expressed on many occasions that we love and care for each other’s babies as if they were our own.
When you’re creating a community around your brand, your members need something to CARE about.
3. Mean people can’t harm a community.
Actually, mean people can galvanize a community, pulling people together to care more deeply for what brought them together in the first place.
Motivated by who-knows-what, some people are just innately mean-spirited. It is no secret that social media is a breeding ground for meanies to unleash their inner bullies. They can attack the community, sometimes in very stealthy ways, by framing their communication in an accepted manner and style. Eventually their contributions will undermine what people in a community care about and raise the ire of some members to defend what is important to them, and in doing so they will freshly define the essence of the community for others to rally behind.
4. A community grows when it achieves a critical mass of caring people.
The critical mass is the tipping point, the point at which the community becomes self-sustaining.
Finding this threshold is not cut and dry. Apple Computer's current community mass is over 200 million. Our mommy group: 11 pairs of moms and babes. There is no magic formula to determine the critical mass of your community, however you will know it has begun when your community starts to initiate activity independent of your leadership. For example, a retailer might plan events that bring customers to their store but critical mass is achieved when the community begins to plan their own events around the brand. Recently I was invited by a friend to attend a party at a local shoe store. The staff were every bit a part of the party and little to do with the planning.
Sadly, our mommy leader needed to ‘bow out’ as she put it, to return to full time work. She is still very much a member of our group, but our mommy community lives on in her absence.
If you spoon feed the right ingredients that support what your community cares about most, there will come a point when you can sit back, and enjoy. Like an infant, your community has learned to feed itself.
What does your community care about?
No one is a member of just one community. We overlap and cross-reference and bring great things from one into another. But what binds a community is the one or two things its members care about the most and the characteristics of how the caring is expressed. Our mommy community cares primarily about our babies. But the characteristics of our community are based on openness, non-judgement, and love of a good time in a real sense, not just a motherly one.
What does your brand community care about the most and what are the ways in which you express that caring? If you find 5 minutes today, list these things for yourself. If you can identify what really matters to your community it might change how you share with them.
Next lesson: Trust with a capital T
The quote above from Brian Simpson actually came to us from a great ebook by our friends at Measurely.