The 5 Best Ways to Harness a Community

I was recently asked how best to build a community.

It’s a question I get a lot.

My professional instinct was to talk about creating a digital hub, producing useful content and adding incentives to make a customer stay.

But I stopped myself. I had a big problem with the question:

The sheer fucking hubris of it.

Unless your product or service is something genuinely unique, you will find that a ‘community’ already exists. And they’re managing perfectly fine without you, thank you very much.

If you really want to harness the power of a community, job one is to admit you don’t know a goddamn thing.


1. Listen

Heresy! Imagine a brand improving its product or service by actually giving a shit what the customer wants.

Why spend time enticing them to come to you so that you can get them to talk?

Guess what? They’re already talking. You’re just not listening!

Find out where they are, go along and shut your mouth — you may learn a thing or two.

2. Don’t Be A Faker

A community, especially a passionate one, can smell a day-tripper from a thousand paces. Do not under any circumstances try to pass yourself off as something you’re not.

If your product is one that seeks to solve a problem for this community, as any good product should, they’ll be fine with you being there.

But if you are outed after pretending to be ‘just one of the gang’, your credibility will be lost forever.

3. Ask Don’t Tell

When (if?) you graduate from being painfully clueless, only then should you allow yourself to engage with these people. But remember, the class above ‘painfully clueless’ is not ‘expert’.

You can still safely assume that nobody cares what you think.

But, if you’re being respectful, they will be happy to tell you what they think. Specific things. Even about your product. And that’s point anyway, isn’t it?

4. Respect Their Time

You need them more than they need you. That said, in most communities you will find a good cross section of people who are happy to help.

Be respectful of the time they give. And if their feedback/help is useful there’s nothing wrong with rewarding them.

But the trick here is to understand and meet expectations. Sure, a ‘thank you’ is lovely, but they’ll tell you to ‘stick your thank you up your arse’ if they were expecting to get paid.

5. Never Sell

You will read a bunch of stuff online that will tell you that selling to a community is okay as long as you do it sparingly.

They might even have a fancy ratio like one selling post for every five… er… non-selling posts?

It’s crap.

Sure, you might see a short term gain as a few stragglers buy what you’re peddling, but in the long run you’ll diminish trust and therefore the usefulness of the community itself.

Relax… I’m not arguing you don’t sell to your customers ever. I’m just suggesting when you’re in their house, play by their rules.

As always I’d love to read what you think and I always appreciate a little love… so hit the heart! Thanks!