In the last year, I have had the opportunity to see two awesome communities growing side by side, our meetup group and our coworking space. When we first opened our coworking space, I remember just staring at some of the other founders all day without a single coworker around, it wasn’t fun. There wasn’t much coworking actually going on.
I learned the hard way that just because you call a group a community, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is one.I want to share a few things that helped us grow from our first non-team member to the 44 coworkers we have working with us today and growing our meetup group from 1 to over 950 people.
Create something worth building a community around and set meaningful goals.
Many people set goals for themselves and maybe even a three or five year plan for their career. Although I’m not telling you to establish a long term plan, it is important to figure out what you are actually trying to accomplish with the group. Think about the impact you want to have or the values you want to develop. Be very clear and actively share your meaningful goals so your members have a common thread tying them together.
Build Individual Relationships First
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t just wake up to a highly engaging and super interactive community, it takes a lot of time and effort. One thing all great communities have in common is that they are made up of individuals, yet many people are so focused on the result that there is no attention given to the process.
Building those solid relationships in the beginning will make people want to help you, sometimes without you even knowing it. No matter what you may have heard, the truth is that people connect to other people far more deeply than they do to anything else. Every relationship is an opportunity to have people help you spread the word about your values and what you are trying to accomplish.
Eventually, you want to be able to build something that gives people a sense of belonging. Keeping a pulse on the group will help you figure out what you need to pay attention to and is the best way to figure out what you can do to help your other members. All you need to do is ask.
Letting people know what is going on with the group will develop a far greater appreciation for what you are doing. If something happened that helped you move one step closer to your community goal, let people know so they can celebrate with you.
Step back, empower, and give ownership.
One day you want to get to the point where you aren’t the one doing everything. Wouldn’t it be nice if introductions within your community were made without you having to be a part of it?
If you want to scale the community beyond yourself, you need to take a step back and empower others by giving them ownership of the community. How do you do this?
Again, building meaningful relationships from the start and winning people over will help you breed evangelists. When your goals become their goals then you turn participation from something they have to do, into something they want to do. When you combine participation with relationships people will feel like they “belong” to the community.
As you can see, building communities takes time and some focused effort but they all start with building meaningful relationships then clearly defining the common thread that ties the community together.
What are some things that have helped grow your communities?