Community…noun. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
We all need community. Whether you are a human, a brand, an introvert, an extrovert or an animal, the need to feel accepted and supported is there. We travel in packs, mastermind big ideas and share a lifestyle that is important to us. We all set out to find them and once we find that community we feel like we have come home.
Now, thankfully, with the internet’s ever evolving technology, it is easier than ever to connect with people and brands that speak to your soul. With online communities we can connect with others far and wide, stay in touch between gatherings and share in each other’s successes. The internet is a great tool to help cultivate your community, but today I want to focus on the face-to-face, the power of word of mouth and the visceral energy created from in person connection.
I have found amazing groups of people online, no doubt, but it is not the same as meeting these people in person, or cultivating local communities in your area. These communities are vital to you as a business owner and as a brand. In person networking is not dead and neither is word of mouth marketing. Nothing is more valuable than you and sharing what you have to offer with others. And nothing is more powerful than the return of word of mouth support.
With fast tactic marketing, hard core sales newsletters and being hit everyday with the same media about how you are missing out on the next best deal is downright exhausting and let’s be honest, bound for burn out. You have to go at your own pace, and if the above path is your style then seriously go take on that world, because it needs you.
Maybe that fast-paced lifestyle is not what you want for yourself, your brand or your community? I am right there with ya. I am an introvert, a late bloomer and I am looking for something else completely. With no judgment on the other paths or the trends, I seek the road less traveled. The one where word of mouth is king, authenticity is queen and organic growth fuels the slow burn that eventually creates a bonfire kind of community. For my brand and myself, I want communities that are ready to camp out and enjoy the journey together. What about you?
So what does the journey look like exactly?
Here are the steps I take:
- I decided I wanted it and I never looked back.
- I got my feet wet, played in the background and took it all in.
- I dedicated my value with no expectations.
- I learned life lessons and what I wanted (or didn’t want).
- I found the support I needed and myself, along the way.
I have used these steps in two major communities in my life so far, but these steps have also worked on a smaller scale, or in smaller branches of these larger communities.
The first community found me… in high school. I consider myself a little bit lucky on this one because this community literally saved me and I feel blessed to have found it at a young age. My paddling community at NAC hooked me from day one. It was a great place to be after school and it became my sanctuary. I got to be on the water and I got to meet people outside of my high school life (thank goodness). As an adult, I have dedicated 11 years, every summer and handfuls of weekends to this community. I have volunteered my time, my creative eye and sweat to it. I have learned that no one was going to do this for me, that we are so much stronger when we are united and that I needed to open myself up to the world. From this community, I found my husband, amazing friends and rad clients.
The second community came much later, and I had to go out and get it. Starting a business was in my blood, but how the heck was I going to do it? I had a small side hustle (thanks to the first community), I was looking at transferring to Cal State Long Beach for Art and Etsy had just hit the scene…such exciting times. Art school gave me the skills and knowledge to know where I wanted to take my art career, but no business skills to build it. I felt a little lost and a need to find a community that fueled my creative and entrepreneurial spirit. I pursued a corporate graphic design job that gave me loads of experience but didn’t fulfill me in this way, so I decided to go to Craftcation, a creative conference. I found out about Craftcation through a newsletter sent by my favorite local store. I have to say this conference was intimidating, because at this point I had no idea this community even existed or what I was doing…and these creatives were badass. My mind was blown and I knew I had found another community to call home. I didn’t have any networking confidence, but I kept going each year, where I met new creatives, built up my confidence and expanded my horizons. Over the past 4 years I have volunteered my time, my tech skills, and hustle to this community. I learned that I can do this, that we are all afraid and that there is room for everyone to share their voice. In return, I have found my business, my support team and more rad clients.
These communities are a prime example that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing chip you can hold. It is worth your time and it is worth the organic growth. It offers you a healthy, robust base in which your business can rest its head. With this offline base, you can then start to grow your online communities with your marketing plan – whatever that may look like, because let’s face it…there are no rules anymore.
As a brand it is important to have an online presence through this whole journey…it doesn’t have to be perfect and it is never finished. I do not care what anyone says, Rome wasn’t built in a day and there are no fast, easy answers. There is just hard, smart work and the fact that everyone has to start somewhere. You rarely get to see the beginnings, so if you are looking for an organic place to start, you can look online but jump at the chance to take it offline when it calls to you.