In this blog we dissect the core values and psychology of community and how community can benefit people. There is also some talk about Jam.
Community and me
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word community it takes me back to my childhood. My very British childhood.
At age six, my parents moved my siblings and I from our dodgy council estate in the city to a small market town in the countryside. It was a bit of a culture shock at first. In our new town everyone knew each other. I’d be walking the dog and a stranger would smile and say hello and our neighbours actually spoke to us. This was an alien concept, and it took some adjusting to. But eventually we learned that it was a nice place to grow up. There was little crime, good schools, a thriving high street and an annual competition where people’s gardens were judged by the town council, with the best garden receiving a hamper of the town’s finest produce. Commence the Little Britain theme tune.
There were organised groups and clubs a plenty. Brownies, beavers, youth theatre groups, a cricket club, bowls for the elderly and of course the epitome of old England: we had a Women’s Institute. Most of these groups met at one of the town’s three community centres. That was my first experience of that word. “Community”- a place where people who like the same things can come together and talk about them.
Types of Community
Community is much more than local garden competitions and swapping jam recipes in town halls. Six-year-old me would be a gasped to learn that there are, in fact, many types of community. And whether we consciously choose to be a part of them or not, we all belong to them.
Fundamentally a community is a group of people who have a shared sense of belonging and identity around which they can unite. Communities can be physical/ in person or online or they can be imagined. For example, a nation who share similar characteristics such as culture, language, history, religion, or ethnicity. Communities can be small, like a neighbourhood, or large, like a global community. They may be geographically defined, or, defined by shared interests and beliefs. The most common types include those that are identity based. For example, religious groups, LGBTQ+ groups and so on. Communities can be purpose built around people that share similar interests and groups of action. For example, sporting groups or activist groups. And oh, so many more. Some communities are circumstantial i.e. we haven’t made a conscious choice to belong to them. Whereas other communities we are drawn to. But why? What’s the emotional core of these places of common interest? And why are they vital to the success of growing businesses?
Communities cultivate love
Let’s go back to my families move to the countryside in the nineties. Why did my parents move us there? Did Mum secretly want to be a part of the women’s institute. Maybe? Did Dad crave a garden big enough for a large shed in which he could hide from Mum and us. Probably. I think the most likely answer was that they wanted their children to grow up in a healthy community.
The town offered a safe place for us to learn and to grow. And besides my unhealthy obsession with collecting TY beanie babies, I flourished. The streets were safe enough to play out in, and eventually I joined some local groups. Yes, when I was ready, I too made use of the community halls. I’d become a true townie. I attended youth theatre on Wednesdays after school and youth club on Friday evenings. And it was in those spaces that I had the opportunity to surround myself with people who enjoyed the things I enjoyed. In those spaces, I felt safe and supported to play. I was free to ask questions, make mistakes, socialise, have fun, bitch and moan. I could use my voice, listen to others and express myself. I belonged to something that became more valuable to me over time. And I kept coming back. From those communities I learnt lifelong lessons, made lifelong relationships and eventually made my career decisions because of them. They made me love that thing that drew me to them even more. That’s powerful right?
Community for your brand
Whether you’re planning to build a community, or you’ve already got one, it’s important to note that communities not only service your customers but also your brand. What will they get out of it? And what do you get in return for your efforts? This varies according to the service or product you offer. But here’s a couple of benefits that we see from B2B business communities:
The good, the bad and the ugly. This will happen and that shouldn’t be a bad thing. Providing your members with another avenue to use their voice has massive benefits for your business. A. It gives you insight into how your customers really feel about you. B. It gives you a chance to jump on complaints quickly and improve the service you offer. And C. Your response to that feedback can showcase how excellent you customer service is to other community members, and how transparent your brand is. Transparency shows integrity and integrity builds trust. Brands that have good relationships with their customers keep them. That’s retention. Happy customers also become advocates. Which brings us onto our second point.
Creating Advocates. Lead Acquisition
When prospective customers can access your community channel, they have an opportunity to see how your brand interacts with its existing members. It’s like voyeurism, but more businessy. If you have a thriving community your existing members will say positive things about you. And what better “non-salesly” way to seal the deal with your prospects.
But the value of successful communities certainly isn’t just about the money. It’s a symbiosis of cultivating genuine relationships which can, over time, liberate your customers, create loyalty, provide opportunities to network and ultimately elevate your brand’s reputation.
Your community might be more powerful for your business than you realise. Building a space where people who like your brand can come together and talk about it will make them love you even more. Community are places where people work together, stay together and grow together.
Check out our Community Indicator to see where you’re at in your community building journey. We’d love to help you grow.
This blog was written by Liam Currie. The Will to Advocitude’s Grace. He is a large and emotional man in his thirties, who recently gave away his collection of TY beanie babies to a lady off Facebook. Tragic.