What You Need to Know About Online Community

Building Online Community

In the social media world – thought leaders, activists, or business brands are nobodies until they build a community. This is much like networking in the real world, but far more leveraged and relational.

Instead of starting a breakfast club for 5, it’s like creating a forum for thousands.

You can learn all the tools; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Moophly, etc. If you don’t understand and focus on building community, all your efforts will be an exercise in futility.

Yes. I made Moophly up. I wonder how many of you went searching for it…

A Community Without Boundaries

A true community is an intentional gathering of like-minded individuals with virtually no barrier to entry.

The standard practice used to be that we would congregate in our church groups, social clubs, and professional organizations. These gatherings were all based on location. Now, thanks to the internet, we can explore the whole world and connect with the people and projects that matter to us.

We can develop community anywhere with anyone. Social media tools make it easy.

Why You Should Care

A community built around your brand is like gold. These people have bought into what you’re trying to accomplish, the product you sell, or the service you provide. Not only do they like you, but they want their friends to like you too.

What would U2 be without their loyal sea of fans? What would Apple do if it didn’t have its obsessed legion of addicts? Where would Gary Vaynerchuk be if he hadn’t assembled a devoted throng of wine aficionados? With a loyal following comes great potential…

How To Get There

Building community is an artform and is highly particular to you, your cause/product/idea, and the people around it. You slowly craft it one interaction at a time. You nurture it by thoughtfully and intentionally adding value to people’s lives.

Here are just a few traits that seem to be common in the folks who’ve done it well:

There is no prescription but this: be true.

True to your identity. True to your principles. True to your calling.

If you care about the baby seals, go stand on top of a mountain and preach about those cute little buggers until all the other baby seal lovers of the world come to listen. Then, take that community of people, put them to work, and save those baby seals.

“That sounds hard. Can I fake it?”


You can’t fake authenticity. In our highly connected world, there’s no room for inconsistency. The story you tell needs to be the story you live. You can’t passionately advocate for a cause that you don’t support. We’ll call you out immediately.

By we, I mean everybody.

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9 Responses to What You Need to Know About Online Community

  1. Anonymous January 19, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    Good post, Kenny! Community MUST be worked into every business plan and communications strategy. Without it, you’re sunk. The coolest part of this: We all get to leverage it as an uber-powerful business tool because we learned it from Grandma . . . and didn’t have to pay Harvard dollars for it!

    • Kenny Silva January 19, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      I love free grandma education! Seriously, though, having a loyal community beats the snot out of going out and cajoling strangers into doing business with you. It’s a good thing. Thanks for reading, Toni!

  2. Robin Matteri January 19, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this today….I needed the motivation.

    • Kenny Silva January 20, 2011 at 12:03 am #

      I’m glad you stumbled here too, Robin! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and leave a comment.

  3. Jason Wert January 19, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    This is brilliant, Kenny. You boiled down what to many seems like such a horribly complex idea into simple, direct terms. You should write this up for a magazine that would pay you for it.

    • Kenny Silva January 20, 2011 at 12:03 am #

      Thank you for the kind words, Jason. I might have to look into that.

  4. Jeff Goins March 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    Love this post, Kenny.

    • Kenny Silva March 22, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

      Thanks, Jeff! I was just talking with someone about Seth Godin’s book Tribes today. It’s an amazing primer for building communities online and off. I need to read it again.


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