Written By: Adam Dince
Last summer, I took the leap and bought a house in beautiful Stillwater, Minnesota. After living in the Twin Cities for nearly two years, I was convinced that Minnesota was the place I wanted to plant roots and purchased a home while still a buyer’s market.
How I Learned About Communities
For most of my adult life, I’ve lived in places where neighbors didn’t talk to each other. If we did–it was a casual “hello” in passing. For me, it was fine. I enjoyed coming home after a long day of work and retreating to my quiet space. In fact, one of the things I loved most about the new house was how quiet the neighborhood was and how far apart the houses were from each other. However, to my pleasant surprise, I quickly learned that I moved in to a community, not just a house.
In our community, we spend time in each other’s homes. We host bonfires where we enjoy Smores, whiskey and meaningful conversations. We go out to dinner together. We’re always happy to see one another while out riding bikes, mowing the lawn or walking our dogs. If we need work done on our house, we can always count on our neighbors to give us a personal recommendation and vice-versa. Our community is much like family and we couldn’t imagine living in a better place.
I share this story because I believe its important to humanize the word “community.” Marketers often throw the word community around like it does the word “content.” In my humble opinion, we’ve cheapened the word “community” by using it as a marketing tool. We build online communities based on our own personal interests and not the interests of others. We emphasize the number of neighbors we have over quality of relationships. We’ve automated communication with our community instead of taking the time to respond real-time. We’ve boiled down the success of our community building efforts by what some third party tool tells us our score is.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent a significant amount of time building real relationships with people I’ve met on social networks. I met Jermaine Young, who has become one of my closest friends. Together, we’ve built an amazing community of friends that come together every Wednesday night on Twitter to let loose and have a little fun around the hashtag #spoofchat. Though we’ve never met in person, we chat regularly over video, text and talk on the phone when we can. He’s my brother.
I’ve met awesome people like Amber Jones, Bree Kelley, Joel Renner, Vince Skolny, Amanda Pensack, Karima-Catherine Goundiam, Anabella Acoca, Kayla Chatkiewicz, Josh McCormack, Lucy Rendler-Kaplan and so many others that I’ve gotten to know through our online communities. A community is not a club. It’s not a group of people that you advertise to or use as a sales force. A community is not an audience or users of a certain network. A community is a group of people that care about and help each other through this thing called life. a group of people whom help each other make informed decision and keep each other accountable. A group of people that make it a point to bring online relationships, offline and establish real life connections. Check out the #SocialRoadTrip crew. It’s awesome!
And it is possible for brands to connect with communities as well. Brands are made of people whom belong to online communities. Employees can go a long way in introducing brands to their personal communities. But this can only happen if a brand’s intent is to be a true community contributor and not a just user of it.
For example: every week, SEMRush hosts an hour long chat #SEMRushChat, dedicated to helping its community members grow in online marketing expertise. It provides a place for people to build their personal brands. And they never push their products on anyone they engage with.
Like SEMRush, brands must be good citizens within the social communities it belongs to.
The Tragedy In Charleston, South Carolina
On a side note: this week, our country as a whole mourns the tragedy that happened in Charleston, South Carolina. I’ve spent the better part of my weeknights watching the news coverage and interviews with members of the Charleston community. The mantra, “Only love can overcome hate” has been something that’s resonated with me and has been exemplified by the community that’s trying to make sense of this horrible tragedy.
May all of our communities, online and off, follow the lead of the incredible people of Charleston, South Carolina. May we all find the space within our hearts to love each other, regardless of: color, sexual orientation, body type, or any other differences we have. And may we take this perspective online and build communities that bring us all closer in meaningful ways.