Building a community is simple in concept but not easy in execution. The allure of building a group of people focused on the same topic is magnetic.
Community is something that happens naturally. An organic organization that evolves.
Forget about building blocks. This is a greenhouse environment -- your community work is equal parts art and science.
The Intentionality Effect
Community builders quickly learn that people don't join things just because a random person (hint: that's probably you) told them to.
No amount of ads or tweets in a vacuum will get the job done.
This isn't a budget issue. Or a skills things. And it's not just you.
It's the mechanical process of building that's getting in the way.
While we can break community down into parts, you can't simply get community by putting parts together.
The Community Apprentice Approach
Here's the secret shortcut to building a great community: become part of a great community yourself.
I know, who has the time? You should make time if you want to get this right. Community is something you experience (like your audience), and when you feel it...you'll know what to do next.
Something magical happens when you dive into a new community and truly immerse yourself. You start understanding the language, the unique rituals, and the vibes that make the space special.
You are sensing belonging. And guess what?
That understanding brings confidence. It unlocks the nuance at the heart of any community.
Being an active community member is the key to unlocking your community-building potential.
Here's how in three simple steps.
Find a community that resonates with the challenge or passion you want to address.
Take a look at the things you want to learn or try. Find a place where people get together to do just that. Ideally in person, but if not find a place online.
There are many niche communities, but if all else fails head over to Reddit and start browsing. From fitness to fandom, from collecting to crafting, there's a place where you can go.
Once you've found a few options, it's time to dive in.
Apply. Sign up. Register. Opt-in.
As you walk this path, note how the organizers (and community members) help you get up to speed. Screenshots are easy enough, but only save the stuff that really stands out. You'll be glad you did.
How easy is the onboarding? How social was it? How fun was it?
Check out the calendar of events. Sign up for meetings and classes. Talk to the other members to learn more about what they are doing (and who they are). Exercise that community muscle.
Note how the organizers have structured engagement (or how they create spaces for it to happen).
Analyze what resonates with you, and what doesn't.
Keep track of your engagement...are you coming back? How often? What's different on Day 30 vs Day 10 vs Day 1?
What language and rituals that define the community have you adopted?
Reflect & Build
With this experience front and center, turn back to your community plan and make your adjustments. Remove the assumptions and turn instead to the nuance that makes the magic happen.
Building a community is not just a step-by-step process; it's a journey of curiosity, engagement, and exploration.
By actively experiencing and participating in communities, you will gain the insights and understanding needed to create a thriving and authentic community of your own.