We all know that “build it and they will come” is a myth. Build it, nourish it, then constantly improve it and they will come is more like it.
Anyone can start a movement, anyone can create a cause. But if you want to build more than a passive, lukewarm community it will take guts, sweat and heart.
A community of raving, die-hard members is never built over night. Despite the hard work, there are many benefits to creating a thriving, enduring tribe.
Here are some of the rewards you’ll reap for your efforts:
- Support when you feel like giving up.
- More energy and strength than you could ever possibly generate alone.
- Enrichment through many life-long relationships.
- A raving community will allow you to make your passion your livelihood.
- Perhaps the greatest — and most unexpected — gift is that leading a community will serve as a catalyst for you to become a better human being.
As you can see, there are many benefits to creating and building a die-hard community. But what makes a strong community? What’s the difference between a community that crumbles, and one that thrives for decades or centuries?
An enduring community is…
- Rooted in deeply held values and is not simply a fad or quickly passing trend.
- About moving toward something bigger than any one individual’s goal in the group.
- Founded on creating major change in the world, or centered on a deeply shared passion.
- Led not for self-interest, but for the highest good of the community as a whole.
- Nourished by a sense of meaning and living out a common purpose.
So, how do you actually do it? How do you create a thriving tribe from the ground up? Well, it all begins with you.
Step 1: Why your vision is the most critical ingredient to a cult-like community
In order to build and lead a strong tribe, you need to have a vision for yourself and others to rally around.
Others come to you for your vision because they either don’t have one, or because they believe in the compelling vision you stand for. Remember: The people in your community can only be as passionate about your cause as you are.
My vision for this community is to create a world where people freely live and work on their own terms. One where work is not simply required to live, but is a vehicle for self-expression, service and deep joy. Without this vision, it would be unlikely that many people would rally behind what we’re creating. They would go somewhere else or do their own thing.Your vision, while important, has little to nothing to do with you.
So the first step is to create a compelling vision as it relates to your passion. Please note that while it’s up to you to supply the vision, it has little to nothing to do with you. It’s about something bigger than you, and that is precisely why it fosters community.
By putting a stake in the ground for what you believe in, you fashion a space for others to bond and connect around your core mission.
Step 2: Introducing the Shared Purpose (and a not-so hidden enemy)
Perhaps the most uniting quality of your community is the shared purpose; what you are working toward as a whole, what you’re moving toward and what you stand for. While this isn’t as dramatic as a revolution or supplanting a regime, it is vital and absolutely necessary. Without it you have nothing more than a hollow destination; a summit with no underpinning why for climbing to that endpoint.
People don’t buy into arbitrary goals or purely self-centered pursuits (well, sometimes they do). People rally behind ideas, causes and missions they believe in. And underlying the “what you do” is a deeply seated sense of purpose. It’s the essential and Deep Why behind every milestone and leg of the journey.What’s your “Deep Why” behind what you do? Can you turn it into a shared purpose?
Without it you have nothing more than a jumbled pile of information and disjointed ideas. A common purpose, or why, is the web-like fabric that interlaces and connects all of what you do under a unifying theme. It gives context and meaning to each action. Even miniscule or mundane tasks can be seen as important and vital when connected to the contribution made to the bigger mission.
Within this community, the shared purpose is to opt-out of template following and create work on our own terms. To create a new paradigm (as dramatic as that sounds) where work is seen as joy and the creation of legacy. We call that getting paid to be who you are, or working on your own terms.
However, that’s not the whole story. It’s only half of the battlefield.
On the other side stands the shared enemy: Working to survive. Grinding it out, paying the bills and going through the motions. This is a stale, energy draining paradigm — conceived by the factory line model of work — where work is simply a means to an end; a boring, lifeless means to survive.
In stark contrast to the Shared Purpose of getting paid to be who you are lies the status quo of working to earn your joy at some undisclosed date that never arrives. It involves separation and dissection of work and life, whereas getting paid to be who you are involves total integration of the two.
This is our Shared Purpose and Shared Enemy. Every great community has at its core these two competing forces (see my friend Clay’s about page for a great example). Can you identify the basic elements of yours? Once you do that, it’s time to…
Step 3: Create a Core Identity within your tribe
Every great community has identifiers that signify membership or alliance within it.
Your community or tribe is no different.
Probably the best illustration of this comes from the sports world. In soccer, fans commonly identify with the team of their respective country. When their team wins, they take credit and brag about their team’s victory. In the same way, when their team loses, they themselves feel a sense of defeat and loss.
When their team wins, they win. When their team loses, they lose.
Your community in similar ways is a team, a band of brothers and sisters united around a mission, passion or idea. They feel invested in the successes and failures of the community.
The key here is to create a language and adoptable identity that the members of your tribe can assume. Around here, our flagship community is Trailblazer.
The people in our program identify themselves as trailblazers because of their investment in the shared principles we stand behind. Being a trailblazer is about getting paid to exist. It’s about forging your own way and creating a path you’d never want to stop walking.
The word trailblazer encompasses all of those qualities in a single word. The language we use in our tribe is specific, unique and speaks to the background and personality of the people we love connecting with and the community we want to cultivate.
We also use phases like “creating a no-end path,” “becoming an anti-authority,” and “identifying your active seeker.” All of these expressions tie together to create a lexicon in our community. You can do the same for your tribe.
What are the unique and core expressions of your community? How can you create a Core Identity and lexicon around your mission that others can adopt and espouse?
Step 4: Identifying the ideal members of your tribe
Identifying and recruiting exemplar members of your community is critical. A community starts with a leader, but is defined by the people in it.
These people are the lifeblood of your tribe. Without them, you have nothing more than an empty room.
Specifically, there are three different types of people you need to enroll and mobilize.
These vital members make up the bedrock and core of your tribe. They do the important grassroots work of getting your message out there.
How to recruit them: Find out the top three places that your followers are engaging online and offline. These might be popular blogs, conferences or meetups in your niche. Build a presence at these places by being an active and valuable asset within those centers of interaction.
These are the champions and die-hard members of your community. They’ll stop at nothing to support the platform you’re creating. You can usually spot ambassadors easily. They will naturally rise to the top. They’re commonly the people that share all of your stuff, buy all of your products and will do whatever it takes to support you and the tribe.
How to recruit them: Reward the people that champion your work with special perks like early access to your products, beta testing, and by highlighting the value they bring to the community. You can highlight them in comments on your blog, thank them publicly on social networks and use examples of their transformations as case studies in your products.
These are the influencers and leaders in your broader market. They’re often people that have more clout and authority then you do. But if you can ally them to your cause, they will be huge supporters and vital members of your community. They’re the people that give you leverage. They’re people with existing platforms you can borrow.
How to recruit them: Find ways you can add value to their work. Use the rule of reciprocity and become an asset to them where you are strongest. If you’re great at copywriting, offer to review their landing pages. If your genius is in technology, come to their aid when they’re wrestling with a difficult problem that could jeopardize their launch. Become an asset to their work, and they will naturally want to help you build your community in turn.
The final, and never-ending leg: cultivating and creating a culture of engagement
The final leg of the journey is to create and cultivate a culture of engagement.
A vision is nothing without forward motion and continual resolution to furthering the cause. In order to keep your community strong and thriving, you need to build a strong foundation built on perpetual interaction.
Here are some fundamental rules for creating a culture of engagement and build an enduring, unshakeable tribe:
- Set the stage. Be vocal to your community about the importance of your message and that you need their help sharing it. Make it centered on the shared purpose, and not about you and your ego. Drive home that this is something bigger than just you, and make them feel like they’re doing something good by contributing to the cause.
- Regularly brief your tribe. Regularly update your tribe on new happenings in the community. What’s coming next? What milestones have you reached? If you have any shared goals, are you reaching them? Have you brought someone new onto the team? Being transparent about what’s happening “behind the scenes” with your business or project helps people feel involved and like they’re getting an inside view.
- Share the spotlight. Highlight ambassadors and create a narrative around those who invest in the community. Have certain people been with your community or joined your program at the very beginning? How can you make them feel special (by giving them status for instance) and share that story with the public?
- Encourage engagement. Reward those that are highly active and engaged. Give shoutouts in blog posts, on Twitter, or in weekly videos to the most frequent commenters on your blog or the most active members of your community. The more you make people feel like their efforts are recognized, the more it encourages other to contribute as well.
- Teach via example. Set up expectations of engagement from the beginning, and continually reinforce them. On your about page, can you highlight and share stories about people in your community that are highly engaged and dedicated? How about in your welcome email when someone signs up to your newsletter? In as many places as possible, try to both set up the expectation for engagement and continually reinforce that in blog posts, tweets and other places.
- Get them invested. Make people feel a part of the key decisions that are made in your community. Make them feel involved in the origin story and the ongoing unfolding of your story. This could be as big as cocreating a product with your audience, or as small as having people vote on a new logo for your website. People support things they feel like they’ve contributed to.
Perhaps the most effective way to learn how to build a great community is to immerse yourself in them.
Joining and participating in communities can serve as valuable experiences for creating your own.
Of course, no tribe is built overnight. It takes dedication, hard work and long-term commitment to build anything truly great.
Now that you know how to create a strong, engaged and thriving community, what tribe do you want to lead? Let us know your plans in the comments below.
“This post first appeared on ‘Paid to Exist‘.”
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