More about that anon.
While I was gone, my friend Sarah Robinson published a book, Fierce Loyalty.
Apologies, Sarah, to be such a slow adopter, but I finally read it last week.
It’s a pithy, Godin-esque volume.
In it, she shares her wisdom on the qualities and dynamics of successful communities.
In a world where much is currently spoken and written about community, Sarah’s book stands out because it gets down to the building blocks and how-to’s.
Go read it for yourself. Meantime, here are my key takeaways:
The potential benefits of building community are immense
Sarah’s book gives examples of the benefits of community, particularly in a business setting. Take Harley-Davidson, the legendary motorcycle brand, whose owners unite in sharing core values of freedom and non-conformity.
They could have tried to control, contain, or put some spin on all the spontaneous tours and experiences Harley-Davidson bikers were arranging around the world.
Instead, they encouraged and enabled them. Embraced them as a core part of the brand.
So, sure, these bikers, who’ve developed friendships with other Harley-Davidson owners through “euphoric” tours, adventures and other experiences, are unlikely to opt for some other kind of machine when it’s time to buy another bike. In the meantime, they’ve also had a heck of a lot of fun.
So, there’s more to it than traditional ROI.
You can adopt a community approach to a wide range of scenarios
With all the hype around community at the moment, you could mistake it for being primarily about business building and marketing. But, again, there’s more.
For a start, businesses can use it inside their organisations to inform the way they manage their people. It has the capability to be the foundation for a whole new way of thinking about employee engagement.
Also, it’s becoming a business model all of its own. Instead of traditional limited company structures, with employees, and command and control ways of working, some businesses are now adopting a much looser way of going about things.
One that strikes me as a great example from my own connections, quite beyond the book, is Interimity, the UK based HR interim management company created by Julia Briggs. It offers a really agile way of putting “the best HR talent in touch with the best clients”. There’s a “by invitation only ” membership organisation. Also on- and off-line forums for members to get together and talk about the kind of HR things that are meaningful to them. The quality of people, and the level they’re able to work at shines through from their contributions. Meaning that trust and respect are generated in the group.
Which all makes for the kind of sticky community, that uses its enviable shared connections to open doors to potential clients, and crowdsources candidate shortlists.
In fact, Interimity is such a good example that I’m going to feature it in a separate post all of its own. Again, watch this space.
You need to be clear of your why
Sure, it’s an of-the-moment way about going about things. But if you’re trying to create a community for your business, you should really start by asking, why?
What do you want it to achieve? Is it the raving fans? Is it to help you shape your offering? Is it to give your brand some buzz? Or, if not, what is it for you?
Hint: if your real and only agenda is to make money, your community won’t be sustainable.
Community sounds easy, but does hard
Sarah is someone who really gets “community”. It’s her thing, her passion. She understands the whole organic, emergent process that community is.
That takes a particular type of person or team with a whole particular skill set. Among the qualities I see it needing are: vision, confidence, trust, patience, a real interest in whatever catalyses the community, and a genuine interest in people and connecting.
How many traditional businesses do you know who would get their head round that?
The time is now
Although it’s tough, community is a “now” thing. Our society is shifting. People are getting smarter and wanting more. Whether that’s as a consumer, an employee, or a stand-alone professional. We want to belong. We want to be connected to something that’s bigger than us, where we can experience our little contribution contribute and magnify.
And the whole internet, social media thing is providing ways to enable community to exist and congregate on- and off-line. So many of the enabling tools are there if we just choose to use them.
Ignore it and its message at your peril!
So, Fierce Loyalty has certainly given me lots of food for thought, and I’m sure will continue to do so.
Meantime, tell me how you imagine you could harness the power of community better. What would you wish that to achieve for you?