A little birdy told me you want to know what this “Community” stuff is you keep hearing about. I promise it’s not scary, at least not as frightening as Data Tracking and Analytics.
No need to worry, you’re safe here, and the data can’t get you. At least, not in this particular post.
Community is a tale as old as time and is simply evolving along with humanity; perhaps it’s time you join the party!
I like curiosity so allow me to be your guide through the magical and underrated world of Community Building. By the time you finish reading, you’ll know what a Community is, why you should want one, and what a Community Builder can do for you.
What is Community, and why is it important?
If you ask the peeps at Merriam-Webster, the TL;DR version is that a community is people with common interests living in a particular area, or a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society. That’s not a bad definition if you ask me, but I think we can do better in this case.
Community is not a place—not even that arcade you and your friends used to frequent—and despite the common misconception, it’s not an exchange of information over the internet. Community is about a feeling and relationships built among people. As DigitalMarketer says, it’s “a segment of people who form relationships due to shared goals, experiences, and interests”.
Community members will have built a sense of trust, belonging, and caring for each other.
That warm, fuzzy feeling of community comes from shared experiences and shared history… uncommon commonalities, you could say.
Like I said, a tale as old as time. We’ve all been a member of communities in one way or another, even if it wasn’t in a platform or forum.
How can this benefit your business?
When done right, the community can most commonly decrease costs and increase revenue through higher retention, brand awareness, brand loyalty, ticket deflection, content development, and member advocacy.
When a sense of belonging is created, a relationship is built between your members and each other. Even better, one between you and your members. We’re all partying together!
A Community can be the most potent customer feedback loop you’ve ever seen! In our largest Community, DM Engage (for our DM Lab members), I know I can always count on honest and constructive feedback from our members, and they’re not shy about asking for what they want.
The power of user-generated content? Unmatched. Imagine seeing this testimonial on a landing page.
I don’t mean to toot our horn, but you can bet that after an experience like this, Michael “Buzz” Buzinski will be a lifetime DigitalMarketer member. With the right environment, you can grab tons of screenshots like this and, even better, videos!
As a bonus, Buzz and I will be buddies for life!
What is a Community Builder?
This one is a doozy, not because it’s difficult to define, but because there can be so many definitions!
For me, it’s someone who nurtures connections and relationships on a small or large scale. It can be one to one or one to many. They’re strategic, semi-organized, unafraid to be the bad guy, and empathetic. They create a “home” for people to gather.
If you ask one of my favorite Twitter people to follow, it’s…
“A community builder can be someone who works to create a structure that will hopefully enable a community to thrive. The platform, the processes, and the important, sometimes difficult choices.” Patrick O’Keefe, Community Lead at CNN
A Community Builder is an architect of experiences and relationships, as cheesy as that may sound. Without one, you’re probably not achieving what you set out to do.
A Gatekeeper, a People Manager, a Content Moderator, a Ring Master in your circus…whatever you call them, are the ones building the house your members will live in and that your members will help decorate to their needs and tastes.
What does a Community Builder do?
A better question is ‘What don’t they do’?
Your ironing, probably. Their own ironing, maybe. (I am both of these people.)
They plan, write, structure, promote, burn out, create momentum, are really in their feelings, and don’t do anything without a reason.
No matter how silly or unnecessary something might seem, there is a reason behind the madness.
Note: Don’t talk to your Community person when they’ve got that look on their face, they’re plotting, they’re in the zone, and something amazing or horrific is about to happen. You’ll love it.
The big thing here is that everything in Community is about intention. It’s in how your members choose to show up and interact, and how your Community Builder architects the conversations, events, and overall experience. They’re like mad scientists, only they’re not angry, just lots of heart and not enough caffeine yet.
In Community, some things happen by chance… or do they? If you intended to start a conversation that ended up being a meaningful moment of connection between your members… is it really just luck? This is what I call ✨ vibing ✨ together.
This is where the magic happens; your Community person sets the stage for the right conversations. How? Well, with a sprinkle of inviting copy, a dash of one-on-one chats, a pinch of puppy posts (because puppy posts always get the job done), and a whole bunch of strategic content that guides your members to complete the actions you intend them to…
…Just call me Community Witch because that’s a potion that will provide.
What skills or traits does a Community Builder need?
If you’d like to replicate yourself a Michelle, it’s about: 40% irreverence, 40% hard work, 10% wanting to show the haters they’re wrong, and another 10% of hard work (just not on Friday afternoons).
What you’re looking for is a people person who enjoys the freedom of creativity, has a curious streak, and knows how to get shi*t done. Imagine a customer service professional with project management and content skills. Sounds cool, right? That’s because it is.
Let’s talk about skills.
This may sound like an oxymoron, but it takes strong soft skills to make a great Community Professional. Let’s start with some of the more obvious ones.
- Organized. Community can be messy. You’re in twenty different tabs, three different platforms, with multiple conversations running, and Slack pinging all at once. You’ve got to be organized enough to know what is going on at any moment. Sure it can be exhausting, but boy, oh boy, is it fun!
- Communication. How can you build relationships with someone if you can’t communicate? I’m sure it’s possible, but imagine the difficulty! Excellent written and verbal communication is essential when you’re the mouthpiece for the brand. Let’s not accidentally promise 3k worth of bonuses when it was actually 1k.
- Empathetic. It’s similar to Customer Service; you’re not always hearing from people on their best day. You must be able to take in what the other person is saying, listen, and understand their point of view. That way, you can provide them with honest response to their issue. Often in Community, the bond and relationship become so strong you deal with things you wouldn’t expect. You’re an advocate for members and an advocate for the brand. It’s a balancing act; the base is your ability to empathize and communicate.
- Leadership. As a Community Professional, you’re building paths for your members to take, and you’re leading by example. Members look to you to calm the chaos, enforce the Guidelines, and to learn how to interact in the beginning.
- Boundary Setting. Because Community roles are so heavy on emotion, we also need to be fully aware and able to set boundaries with not just members but also our coworkers and ourselves. It’s okay to be the bad guy once in a while if you’re protecting what has been built. While the community is for the members, it’s your house, and they’re just living in it. Your Community Professional should know when to advocate for the community and when to advocate for the brand.
- Creativity. You’ve got all this feedback, so now what? Time to get creative and put that feedback to work! There is no one-size-fits-all solution to Community, and they should be able to whip up some short-form copy and think up new opportunities when needed.
- Curiosity. One of our old core values here at DigitalMarketer was to “know the why,” and I think that applies to Community. Adaptability is the game’s name, so when you see something wonky with the Community, your KPIs, or member interaction, you have to figure it out ASAP. Not only that, but the world of Community is developing at a break-neck pace. You have to be able to keep up with the progress and roll with it.
- Storytelling. You may not be able to tell from this post, but I can spin up a mean story here and there. You want someone who can paint a picture, set the stage, and control the narrative. You want all the things that require wordsmithing so they can tell a story that brings forth action. The other important part of storytelling is how your Community person will bring stories from the community that leadership and stakeholders care about. Testimonials, feedback, content ideas, etc..… You know, all the good stuff.
Where can I find one?
While this one might have found her forever home, many Community Professionals are available to be
- Remote Digital Jobs
If you’re remote-friendly, I highly recommend this one. It’s not Community specific, but the Group is, as they say, fire. Quality candidates, quality group, and a world of opportunity!
The company responsible for my Community spark has a few options. There is a job board, a Slack group, and a Facebook Group; all are free job postings!
- Community Club
Another company offering the trifecta, job board, Slack group, and a Community!
- The Community Roundtable
A staple in the Community world, and they have their job board!
- We Support NYC
Let me just preface this with; I am obsessed with their newsletter. Sign up for that while you’re emailing them your job listing.
While I’m sure there are more, these are some of my favorites! Now go out there and find yourself a perfect match for your brand and your members.