Building a thriving community around your company/app/service is fuckin’ hard work.
I just came out of a meeting with a potential client who is interested in us helping them build a community and create a discussion with their target market. They’ve got amazing products and smart people – but they just don’t know where to start with Twitter/blogging/word-of-mouth/etc.
They’re a powerful, well-known and smart company. But they’re starting at zero – they don’t have an online community right now and they need to build one from scratch. And they’re not the only ones.
It’s amazing we’ve ended up in a world where huge corporations are on the same playing field as us little guys. All their powerful marketing campaigns, brand power, and advertising dollars seem to be less effective. Big spend TV ads? Mute. Banner ads? Come on. ‘Branding’ campaigns? Not personal.
There is no ‘personal’ life anymore
I know a lot of folks who try to separate their personal life and their professional life. If you’re interested in building community, there is no difference. It’s all the same. ‘Bleasure’ is a word Lisa Price coined, and I think it’s a perfect description: the melding of ‘Personal’ and ‘Business’.
You need to accept every friend request on Facebook. Hate that idea? Try this: The Facebook homepage re-design makes it really easy to create groups of friends. Add all your real-life friends to a group called ‘Buds’ (or something similar) and filter the updates. When you get friend requests, just allow them to see your limited profile. This isn’t as good as sharing everything, but for you more private folks, it should work fine.
Also, if you’re serious about building a community, you better not even think about protecting your updates on Twitter. If you need a ‘personal’ account for your family, that’s fine (and you can use Matt to update multiple accounts). But for your ‘public face’ it’s got to be wide open.
There’s not shortcut
It’s going to take you 1 – 2 years minimum to build a real community around you. Not only is it going to take a long time, but it’s going to require real passion and time. No faking this one. Hiring a part-time blogger to throw up a couple posts a week isn’t going to work either.
If you have 20 minutes, you’ve got to watch this. Gary explains it better than I can.
Money isn’t the answer … or is it?
Traditional methods of reaching customers – basically spending huge amounts of money – are being rendered obsolete. When was the last time you clicked on a banner? When was the last time you clicked on a link in Twitter? Exactly.
Spending money on big media campaigns is a bad idea (in my opinion) but spending big money on a full-time community manager, is a good idea. So the truth is it’s still expensive to create a community, but the money is being spent on something completely different. You should now be spending your marketing budget on:
* Meetups and beer
* A community manager
* A designer and developer to be creative
Here’s a really good example of creative content. Instead of spending a ton of money on banner ads or TV campaigns, Samsung did something smart and creative. Check it out:
So what does work?
The point I’m trying to get across is that creating a community from scratch is hard, time-consuming and fraught with danger. But it’s the only way to reach people now.
Would love to hear your thoughts below.
Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/mdutile