What is Community?

4 minute read

October 27, 2022

What is Community?

When used in marketing copy, the meaning of the word Community can get lost.

It’s super important that we define “community,” and how to build groups around our brands and companies and form them into a community.

There are four crucial elements that can help you define ‘what is Community’. Ensure you have these elements in place to establish a thriving online community.

1. Dedicated Space to Gather

The first part of assessing if you have a community is: Do you have a shared space for people to gather and connect? This can be online or offline, but it is the act of gathering. People need to know or be able to recognize they are part of a group.

This is the primary step, but just because people are part of a group does not make it a community. In many cases, they could just be an audience.

Think of it this way.

A group of folks going to a concert to watch a band is an audience. A group of folks who gather to share how to play music, learn from one another, provide feedback and encouragement looks much more like a community.

2. Jargon and Passion Allowed

The next aspect to assess is whether the people who are gathering share common language (jargon), customs, interests, or passions.

This is the next step above simply meeting; it’s about having a common baseline of connection.

For example, consider Big Green Egg. They have an annual event for those folks who love to BBQ. It’s a passion. It’s beyond just folks having a shared space, but for people that live, love and want to connect with those like-minded folks about BBQ.

I love smoked meat like many folks, but the people who will drive halfway across the country to this event are the people we are talking about. This isn’t just people who enjoy some Brisket, but folks who want to talk and share with others who obsess about temperature, time and the correct wood to use for smoking. Let’s not even get into the rub or sauce discussions.

I do know some may think, does passion exist in the B2B context? Yes, it does, to some extent. Don’t measure a community by your passion and interest but by that of your community. You may not find passion in spreadsheets, but some people simply love them and want to connect with those with a similar connection to the subject.

Believe it or not, most folks join a community to find like-minded individuals and feel they aren’t alone in loving whatever it is they have a passion for, from scrapbooking to finance.

3. Sharing is Caring

Up to this point, we have the fact that people are gathering, in some capacity, around passion and interest. However, we are not yet at a community level; we have a passionate audience. So how do we move from an engaged audience to community?

The key to making a community special is that the people within will share voluntarily and among themselves. You can have a Facebook group about dogs, but if all that happens is people are sharing photos, it’s not a community; that’s an interest group.

What makes something a community is someone asking about trouble with their dog, and people offering solutions, sharing their own experiences, and even offering to come to help them with their problem. Community is about give and take, and hopefully, more giving than taking.

It’s not about a brand talking to the audience about its latest product. It’s about the audience sharing with the brand and the other folks in the community. However, it’s more than sharing. It’s seeking connection with others using the brand and learning from them as much as it’s about sharing.

Your community space, in whatever capacity it exists, needs to have some element where people can share, learn and connect. Without this crucial aspect, you have not yet built a community.

4. Belonging

One of the ways we measure community is via a “Sense of Community” survey. The central component of this survey is to measure belonging. This is the final and most vital aspect of a community. The people within should have a sense of belonging in this group. If you asked them if they are part of a community, the answer is an emphatic “Yes”!

They will also tell you they are genuinely interested in supporting, assisting, sharing or learning from others within this community. Community only works in a symbiotic state.

Also, what’s crucial is that at the end of the day, if people do not feel they belong, a community does not exist. You can have all the other elements, but if the connection to a larger group is missing, you have not built a community.

This isn’t to say all members of your community need to feel a connection. This ebbs and flows, but if you want to create a healthy and vibrant community you must be having conversations with your members and assessing these needs is crucial.

All together

As you can see, community is multi-faceted and requires some key elements to exist. As your checklist to know if you truly have a community, now you know what you want to look for.

If any elements are missing, then you have some work to do. If you’d like to connect and learn how to get there, don’t be shy. I’m always happy to have a conversation.

 

This is an edited version of a post was originally shared via Linkedin!

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Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community and Lead Evangelist for Vanilla by Higher Logic. Besides spending many years in digital marketing, Adrian has been building communities of all sizes for over 20 years.

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