What do you think of when you hear the word community?
For some of us, it’s that stereotypical “American dream” house with the white picket fence. For others, it’s a group of like-minded individuals who have rallied together around a shared interest or cause.
At first glance, the idea of community may not seem like it really applies to building your brand as a creative entrepreneur. But in reality, solid community-building efforts can lay the foundation for some of your greatest work.
By being actively involved with your customers through social media and other platforms, you will foster closer relationships that ultimately build a sense of community among the people who use your services.
When done right, you’ll have much more than a happy little Facebook page where people gather around to sing Kumbaya. You’ll have tapped into the sometimes overlooked power of your target audience to help you make your business even stronger.
Your Community Will Allow For Regular, Recurring Income
When you build a community — no matter how small — you have a group of people who are loyal to you and your services. Even if your service is more of a “one-off” thing, an approachable online presence paired with great work will help you build a following that continues to engage with you long after they buy.
Even if this loyalty isn’t going to lead to more direct sales from previous customers, it is quite likely to help you land a boatload of referrals. Your passionate community members are going to tell their friends and associates about what you have to offer, and you’ll find your inbox filling up with people who want to do business with you.
I recently spoke with Asaaf Lev, co-founder and CEO of Locals.com, a subscription-based community platform for independent creators, who explained, “When content creators are able to produce content that people are willing to pay for, it results in a consistent revenue stream for the creator, and the audience grows organically through word-of-mouth. The community will eventually produce more content, keeping the flywheel going for the creator — more content, more subscribers and more revenue.”
Continued Lev, “What we have observed on Locals is that authentic and unique content can drive a true community experience, delivering a consistent revenue stream for content creators and a rewarding community experience for their subscribers.”
Your Community Will Create A Positive Space For Feedback
As a solopreneur, you may sometimes feel like you’re working in a vacuum — but it shouldn’t be that way! This is especially true of creatives. Social support, encouragement and constructive criticism are all crucial for success.
Writers’ groups are a great example of this. These groups give aspiring authors a chance to meet together and share their work with one another. Each person can learn from the writing experience of the others in the group, which provides a “safe space,” if you will, for honing their craft and preparing for the next step in their writing journey.
You can achieve similar outcomes by building a strong community. Who better to judge your latest design concept than the fans who already like and respect you?
If your latest work is a bit short of the mark, your fans aren’t going to tell you that you suck and should quit and never try doing this type of work again. They will provide constructive criticism that points you in the right direction so you can hone your craft and deliver better results for future customers.
Your Community Will Set The Stage For Better Branding (And Marketing) Opportunities
As your community continues to grow, you can use their interests and engagement to build more organic opportunities to market your brand. Many entrepreneurs actually see their branding evolve in part because of the personality of their community.
I’m not usually a fan of talking about big brands, but Red Bull’s example in this is hard to ignore. The energy drink has built a loyal community of adventurers and adrenaline junkies, and they constantly cater to this group.
As a result, the brand has taken on a strategy of pushing their product without being overly advertorial or in-your-face. A video of BASE jumpers wearing Red Bull branded clothing, or a blog post discussing the latest news in extreme sports, hardly comes across as a typical advertisement. Yet, these branded efforts still link an engaged community back to the company itself.
I’m not saying you need to film a video of yourself bungee jumping while talking about your services (though that would definitely get some people’s attention)! But when you look for common points of interest in your community and ways to expand the conversation beyond marketing talking points, you will be able to create content that is far more engaging, and will help grow your audience even further.
Start Building Your Community Today
Building a community for your online business doesn’t happen by accident. It requires ongoing effort, and a willingness to genuinely engage with your audience and be your true, authentic self with them.
This may require that you break out of your shell a bit, but the results are well worth any kind of awkwardness you might feel at first. By tapping into the power of community, you will be well on your way to achieving your entrepreneurial goals.