The Ultimate Guide to Building Community

Whether you’re a creator just trying to enjoy building meaningful connections with your audience or you’re focused on monetising your following and turning your channel into a full-time living, getting your audience to interact with you is fundamental for achieving these goals. 

One of the best ways to drive interaction is by making your audience feel they are part of something. In turn, this builds a deeper connection between you and them. You both belong to the same tribe, have closer ties to each other and, therefore, are more likely to interact. 

What am I referring to? Community.

There’s a wealth of studies out there on how to get people to like you and to see you as a leader, as well as on how to influence others and form tribes. Business people, entrepreneurs, influencers, creators and bloggers all need to build community to make what they’re doing worthwhile.  

Without customers a business really isn’t a business and wouldn’t stay one for long. Similarly, without an audience an influencer has no-one to influence and without readers a blog is just a lonely person rambling online…

The bottom line is, community is vital if you’re to succeed in the creator space. 

What is “Community”?

Let’s first get a grip on what we’re talking about here. 

Community is “the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common” with others. (Oxford Languages)

In other words, community is a group of people united by a common goal, attitude or interest. 

Why is Community Important?

When we started our eco-influencer platform we spent A LOT of time researching how to grow our tribe. We went deep. Reading numerous psychology books on influence, compliance, persuasion and the science of what makes great leaders. 

Along the way I discovered the benefits of focusing on community and uncovered some of the top tips and secrets from leading psychologists, leaders and business people when it comes to building it. 

Today I’ll do my best to impart what I learnt to you, but let’s first start with a few reasons why community is the secret sauce for so many successful bloggers and creators.

(1) It drives engagement, one of the most important KPIs for creators and influencers. The more active your community is the more comments, likes and shares you’ll receive. 

(2) It makes your channel more useful to your audience as they can discuss topics, exchange knowledge and learn together on their way to their goal. 

(3) It builds social proof. The old example of seeing a restaurant full of people on one side of the street and an empty one on the other. Where are you more likely to dine? The one crowded with people having a good time, of course. The same applies to your channel, if there isn’t anyone commenting on your content then it’ll dis-incentivise others from doing so.

(4) It helps to form advocates who will propel you into the limelight by spreading your message through word-of-mouth. Advocates are the more important members of your community and will help you grow dramatically by telling others about you, building the social proof around you as a leader. 

How Do You Build Community?

When it comes to building community you first need to understand what drives it, how to be a persuasive leader, and then, you can start to look at tips and strategies for increasing community interactions on your channel. 

Therefore, we’ll break down this post into three sections accordingly.

Understanding What Drives Community

My favourite resource on how to build community is Russell Brunson’s book Expert Secrets. Having spent years studying mass movements and what drives them, he breaks down their successes into three simple components: (1) a clear cause, (2) a new opportunity, and (3) a charismatic leader. 

The Cause 

earth blue banner sign

“All mass movements are built on hope”

Russell Brunson

How can you use this insight?

Well, what he means by this is that mass movements (or communities) are built around a communal desire to escape from a current reality its members are displeased with. 

This is vitally important when it comes to building community because without a clearly defined problem people have nothing to bond over or reason to follow you.

If you think about it, all fashion blogs are helping their audience to escape from being unfashionable or outdated in their style. All green-living accounts are helping their audience to combat the problem of climate change by helping them do their part in the fight.

All people who are conscious about these issues will look for places with others facing the same problem, in the hope there will be some who have answers to their questions. And what better way to learn than with a leader at the forefront and similar people trying to overcome the same problem as you. 

Actionable Tip: Take some time to work out exactly what problem you are helping your audience escape from. From this you can draw out the journey you are going to lead your audience on as their attractive character. 

The New Opportunity

The second key component to a successful mass movement (or community), quite logically, is a solution to the problems people are facing. And it is your job as the attractive character to provide this. 

If you’ve got a following online then it’s because you are serving a need people have. 

You are a solution provider to their problem.

This is crucial for forming a mass movement because, as stated above, they are all based on hope and without a viable solution to their problem, how can they have hope?

Actionable Tip: Take some time to hone in on exactly what your solution is or the way you provide answers to your audience’s questions. What is your area of expertise?

The Charismatic Leader

At the heart of every community (or mass movement) there’s an inspiring and alluring leader. This charismatic figure ignites a fire within others by making them see that their problem needs solving, that the leader’s solution is the only way to escape from it and that they know this because the leader has already achieved what they want. 

Take Greta Thunberg for example, although she didn’t spark the fight against climate change, her practices and actions showed others that as tiny fish in a big pond you can indeed make a measurable difference. She also lives by what she preaches, always seen acting in an eco-friendly way. Furthermore, through her words she awakens in others a realisation that there’s a huge problem in front of us. 

She began her “School Strike for Climate” alone on the streets of Sweden, striking for months. Fast forward a year or two and she’s an international sensation, having inspired 100,000s young people around the world that by striking they’ll raise awareness for this issue and, ultimately, make the leaders of the world act faster. 

What can we learn from this?  

That, to form a community around you, you must first become an attractive character and complete the journey your audience wishes to. 

The logic here is that as you’ve already completed the journey (or are further along the path towards) your audience desires, they will follow you because they want to attain the same end goal.

Here are a few of ways to solidify yourself as a leader in your audience’s mind:

(1)   Tell your backstory to show how you got to where you are today, the difficulties you had to overcome along the way and to prove you’ve already completed the journey. This communicates where you were at the beginning of your journey, how the problem troubled you and where you are today after doing what you did. By doing so, you’ll incentivise your audience to act as well as making them perceive you as someone to follow for achieving their goal. 

(2)   Share your flaws with your audience to show them that no one needs to be perfect. Rather, it’s all about the journey of making marginal improvements so, eventually, you reach your goal. Showing you aren’t perfect reinforces their belief that they can make it too!

(3)   Be certain of your solution to their problems. Don’t be confident, be certain you know this is what will work for them. Afterall, if it worked so well for you then why shouldn’t it work for them too? Communicating your certainty will encourage people to see you as a leader. 

Actionable Tips

  • Consider how you already intertwine your backstory into your content and how you could improve on or increase this. 
  • Brainstorm a few of your own flaws to mention in content and make you appear more human to your audience.
  • Consider the reasons why you are so certain about what you are doing. Have a list of these to share and work into your content.

How to Become a Persuasive Leader

The truth about becoming a charismatic leader is you can have a cause, new opportunity and have already completed the journey your audience desire, however, if you don’t know how to persuade people of your solution, or that you’re indeed a viable leader, then no one is going to follow you.

What are the most important factors affecting persuasiveness?

In my eyes the absolute number one resource for learning how to be persuasive is the One Sentence Persuasion course by Blair Warren. From decades of research, this single sentence boils down exactly how to persuade people to do anything, whether that’s getting people to follow you and join your community. 

This one sentence is extremely powerful and packed with meaning so read it more than once and really consider the individual points made. 

“People will do anything for those who (1) encourage their dreams, (2) justify their failures, (3) allay their fears, (4) confirm their suspicions and (5) help them throw rocks at the enemy.”

Boom. All you need to know compressed down to one simple sentence. 

I know what you’re thinking though… it doesn’t explain each point in any detail. Here’s an extract for Blair’s book on each of the points he made to help clarify them in your mind. 

#1 Encourage their Dreams 

“Parents often discourage their children’s dreams ‘for their own good’ and attempt to steer them towards more ‘reasonable’ goals. And children often accept this as normal until others come along who believe in them and encourage their dreams. When this happens, who do you think has more power? Parents or strangers?”

#2 Justify their Failures 

“While millions cheer Dr. Phil as he tells people to accept responsibility for their mistakes, millions more are looking for someone to take the responsibility off their shoulders. To tell them that they are not responsible for their lot in life. And while accepting responsibility is essential for gaining control of one’s own life, assuring others they are not responsible is essential for gaining influence over others. One need look no further than politics to see this powerful game played at its best.”

#3 Allay their Fears

“When we are afraid, it is almost impossible to concentrate on anything else. And while everyone knows this, what do we do when someone else is afraid and we need to get their attention? That’s right. We tell them not to be afraid and expect that to do the trick. Does it work? Hardly. And yet we don’t seem to notice. We go on as if we’d solved the problem and the person before us fades further away. But there are those who do realise this and pay special attention to our fears. They do not tell us not to be afraid. They work with us until our fear subsides. They present evidence. They offer support. They tell us stories. But they do not tell us how to feel and expect us to feel that way. When you’re afraid, which type of person do you prefer to be with?”

#4 Confirm their Suspicions 

“One of our favourite things to say is ‘I knew it’. There is just nothing quite like having our suspicions confirmed. When another person confirms something that we suspect, we not only feel a surge of superiority we feel attracted to the one who helped make that surge come about. […] It is a simple thing to confirm the suspicions of those who are desperate to believe them.”

#5 Help them Throw Rocks at the Enemy

“Nothing bonds like having a common enemy. I realise how ugly this sounds and yet it is true just the same. Those who understand this can utilise this. Those who don’t understand it, or worse, understand but refuse to address it, are throwing away one of the most effective ways of connecting with others. No matter what you may think of this, rest assured that people have enemies. All people. […] Whether it is another individual, a group, an illness, a setback, a rival philosophy or religion, or what have you, when one is engaged in a struggle, one is looking for others to join him. Those who do become more than friends. They become partners.”

Understanding and utilising the points made above is a great way to bring people closer to you and into your community. 

Actionable Tip: Take a moment to consider each idea and think about how you could help your audience do each within the context of reaching their goals. 

What are your audience’s dreams?

What are common failures?

What are they afraid of?

What do they suspect?

Who are their enemies?

For similar ideas on how to bring people into your community I recommend reading How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I’ll write another post in the future on this, taking a look at the core principles put forth and how you can use them for building community. 

For now, I’ll try to include a couple of the principles from the book in the next section.

Strategies for Building Community Online

#1 Engage, Write and Speak in a Conversational Manner

You want to act like you’re talking to a friend to really strengthen the perceived relationship between you and your audience. It’ll make your readers feel like you’re talking directly to them and, thereby increase the likelihood they’ll respond and interact with you. 

#2 Spur Interaction

If you want to be truly conversational and interact with your audience then you need to invite them to respond to you. Many bloggers and creators fall prey to talking at their readers as opposed to with them. This isn’t being a good conversationalist.

In Dale Carnegie’s book mentioned above he describes one of the most powerful techniques for winning people over as being “genuinely interested in other people” and encouraging “others to talk about themselves”.

Citing endless examples of business dealings turned nasty, only to be saved by someone taking the time to sit down with the unhappy customer and find out exactly what went wrong. More often than not, people just want to be heard, because we all want to feel important. 

Remember, then, to ask your audience for their opinions in your content. It’ll make them feel valued and appreciated as a member of your community.

#3 Run a Challenge

Similarly to the above, creating a challenge or fun task for viewers to engage in is a great way to invite interaction and spur a two-way conversation. 

Over at Problogger, Darren Rowse often refers back to the incredible community growth and engagement he received after running his first challenge 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Each day for a month he challenged his readers to complete a small task and to share what they did with the community. 

After doing so he saw a huge spike in engagement and readership. 

Why not try one out yourself to see if it doesn’t make your audience feel a part of something?

#4 Get People Talking with a Poll or Question

Polls and questions are a great way to get information about your readers, for instance, their likes, dislikes, values and desires. They are also another fantastic option when trying to start a conversation on a particular topic.

#5 Create a Hashtag 

Starting your own hashtag is a great way to get readers to join in as well as to get some user-generated content to share with your community. 

Readers love to see other members of the community getting featured, not only that, but it also helps create deeper social proof around your methods and builds your credibility as an attractive leader. 

Again, this tactic makes your audience feel they’re a part of something.

#6 Respond to Comments

Remember, comments are a goldmine for having real conversations with your audience and building stronger connections with people individually, as well as the group as a whole. 

By answering one person’s question you make them feel valued and important. Moreover, there may be people who had a similar question and see your comment that answers it for them. Doing so will drive further comments in the future as they know you’re likely to respond. 

It works the other way too, if you don’t answer people’s comments, then, guess what happens?

Like someone who has been blanked completely by another, they won’t want to comment again, because they doubt they’ll get a reply. 

This all feeds into creating a useful and active community for your audience. 

Conclusion

It’s hard to say exactly what will work for everyone because each niche lights different fires in people. However, what’s evident from all the research and examples out there is that building community is vitally important for any blogger, creator or business. 

Use the ideas in this post to look at what you’re doing with a fresh set of eyes and to see how to tweak it to increase community, engagement and bring you closer to your audience. 

As stated in the beginning, it doesn’t matter if you’re here for the relationships with your audience or whether you’re here to monetise your channel and make a full-time living off it, community is going to be a driving factor behind whether or not you achieve these goals. 

So, identify your cause, your new opportunity and what makes you an attractive character; study the one sentence persuasion course to see how you can work it into your content; and employ strategies for boosting community and engagement with your audience. 

It’ll bring you one step closer to your goal if you do!

What are some of the ways you build community with your audience? 

I’d love to hear, so leave a comment below 🙂

Thanks for reading!

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