4 Levels of Community for Creative Entrepreneurs
I’m not shy about how important I think community is to not only our business growth but also our wellbeing. Fulfilling our sense of belonging is one of our highest needs. Maslow agrees with me. (Okay, maybe he discovered that first but still!)
I’ve seen many business owners confuse the words ‘audience’ and ‘community’, which I wrote about in depth here, but there are even more intimate layers inside your community that are worth mentioning.
The better you know how to classify your community, the more you can appeal to your ideal clients, cultivate deep relationships and friendships, listen to kind-worded constructive feedback from people who care, and lean into real support.
As I explain in my blog post on audience vs. community, your audience is comprised of people who consume your content and may even buy your products on occasion but with little to no interaction with you. We often see “lurkers” fit into the audience category. Building your audience is an essential part of your business, no doubt, but it’s not where you’ll find deep connections.
Although your audience members support your work by becoming silent readers and subscribers, they aren’t as likely to build a connection with you through one-on-one work, community events, or the like.
Because of this, you have to know what you can expect from your audience. Here’s a quick guide to help.
- DO survey your audience regularly
- DON'T let the opinion of one blog lurker change your brand direction. (see community below)
- DO try to be available to connect with your audience through platforms of your choice. (social media, email, office hours, you catch my drift)
- DON'T expect every blog reader to transition from lurkers to full-blown, dedicated community members. #LurkersGonnaLurk
Now this is where the connection comes in! Your community is comprised of people who not only regularly consume your content but also take action by sharing it and regularly interacting with you. This is the sweet spot in business growth. If you can cultivate a bigger community and transition more of your audience members into community members, you’ll see a significant rise in (dreamier!) buyers and clients over time.
Most of your day-to-day engagement on social media, newsletters, and blog posts will come from your community. It’s best to learn their names early and start making one-on-one connections either through emails, phone calls, video calls, or even in-person meetings over hot chocolate (which are my personal favorite. Buy me a hot cocoa and I’m your friend forever.)
I have more tips on cultivating your community here, here, oh and here too. Okay, you got me. Most of my blog is dedicated to this subject so just have at it with the archives.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. No, it’s not juicy but you should keep reading anyway. I kind of hate the word ‘tribe’ in online marketing. It’s probably because it’s thrown around too often (and incorrectly) but for the sake of this blog post, I’ll be giving myself a pass to use it.
Okay, so now that we have the difference between your audience and community ironed out, let’s chat about your tribe. Your tribe takes the deeper connections you’ve made with your community members and others in your field of work and makes those interactions more regular. This often leads to scheduling weekly, monthly, or quarterly check-ins to see how each other is doing.
A great representation of an online business tribe is a mastermind group in which each member can give one another constructive feedback, real encouragement, and true accountability. They know how to give you a swift kick-in-the-pants but do it in a kiss-on-the-cheek way. Your tribe is essential to your professional development.
Many of us, myself included, have made the mistake of confusing your tribe with your support system. It’s gotten my sensitive heart into a bit of trouble but I’ll talk more about this below.
Your support system is the most intimate subgroup of community because it’s comprised of people in your everyday life who you rely on for a constant level of support in business and beyond. These are people that show their support through their words and actions.
It’s quite possible that the majority of your support system is made of people outside of your business circle. This is generally because you’ve known them for a greater amount of time and have cultivated a more personal relationship with them. My own support system at the moment includes my parents, my brother, my lifegroup at church, my cousin, and a childhood best friend.
Too often we let people into our support system who haven’t earned their way in or who we don’t know well enough. This either happens when we let go of someone who was an integral part of our support system or our support system relationship(s) have taken a recent hit. Because our support system is the most important level of community in our day-to-day personal development, we quickly fumble to recover the pieces and often put the wrong people in the wrong place. We just need to be better gatekeepers of our support system.
So who goes where?
In recap, here is a quick guide to help you in cultivate all four levels of your community.
What: people who consume your content but do not reach out to make a deeper connection.
Who: those who read your blog posts but don’t comment, silently follow your social media accounts for inspiration, etc.
What: people who consume your content AND reach out to make a deeper connection.
Who: members you connect with regularly in Facebook groups, participate with in Twitter chats, and who reply to your newsletters, comments, and blog posts
What: trusted business advisors or mentors and often the people you reach out to when making a shift in your brand vision.
Who: your closest blog and business friends who you’ve cultivated an extended relationship with either through emails, phone calls, video calls, or even in-person meetings.
What: your most tight-knit group of healthy relationships and people you can always on for unconditional support and encouragement.
Who: family members and family-like friends who you instinctively reach out to in times of need.
Ready to focus on building your community?
Enrollment for my new online community building course, Crickets to Community, opes TODAY!! I've poured everything I've learned from over 3 years of community building into this course and community and I can't wait to connect with students and inspire them to determine who their ideal client or buyer is, where they can connect with them, and how to plan, strategize, and launch their own community. Join us today!