Community: You Want It.

Posted February 1, 2013 by Amanda Shofner in Blogging / 6 Comments

Community is a word that seems to be on everyone’s fingers lately, and there’s a very good reason why.

Establishing community is your key to success.

It has worked for me as a teacher, a blogger, and a read-a-thon host. Belonging to a group satisfies the desire within us to connect with other like-minded, caring individuals. Community says, “You are valued. We are invested in you.” It stands in your corner. And we all need someone in our corner, fighting for us.

If establishing community could be broken down into a recipe, it would probably look something like this:

1. Be inclusively exclusive

It sounds a bit paradoxical, doesn’t it? That’s kind of how I do things around here, but I promise it will make sense in about 60 seconds. You must have some level of exclusivity, otherwise there is no point in joining. Obviously. But your community shouldn’t be so exclusive that people avoid it because they feel they will never be able to break into it. The more in-crowd/popular-only feel you create, the less it will appear inclusive to non-members wanting in.

2. Make everyone feel at home

At home, you feel safe and comfortable. A successful space is one that welcomes all opinions without judgment. Disagree, agree, laugh, cry, make a fool of yourself, bask in your accomplishments: it should all be accepted and encouraged. When people feel comfortable, they will engage and flourish. A group whose members don’t interact with each other is no community. The engagement level is a measure of success—and makes the community a desirable one.

3. Invest in the success of your people

Simply put: when you invest in the success of your community members, they will invest in you. But you also must invest in the success of your group members for the sake of their success—not yours. People are smart, and they are intuitive. If you’re in it for yourself, they will know. If you are genuinely invested in your people, it will show. It’s something that you can’t really quantify, but you will see it in successful groups: people want to be part of it.

4. Stay positive

The Internet somehow makes it easy to focus on the negative: the things that go wrong, the things that anger you, the things that sadden you. Learn how to rise above the negativity and your community will flourish. That’s not to say all negative situations should be avoided; on the contrary, finding practical and applicable lessons to negative situations can foster better communication. In and outside of your community. Focusing on the positives makes your group more attractive and more likely to retain its members.

And here’s my secret: community is wherever you are.

It’s is on Twitter. Or Facebook. Or your blog. It is anywhere you stop to interact with people you enjoy interacting with. The best thing you can do is create community wherever you go.

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6 responses to “Community: You Want It.

  1. Have you read Tribes by Seth Godin? He talks about a lot of these aspects of community, specifically pointing out that the world needs leaders for those communities or tribes (and then, of course, points a finger at the reader and says “it should be you”). It’s an interesting book, but I think your post here gives some more practical guidelines for actually creating one — kudos!

    • I have not read Tribes. It sounds like it would be worth checking out, though. Most of what I learned about establishing community came from teaching ESL and my practicum classes with our director. (Group Dynamics in the Language Classroom was a book she preferred, but that’s likely not applicable to anyone outside the language classroom.) I love discussing community, but I think having a way to actually bring it to life is even more important. I am very happy to hear this post gives practical guidelines. 🙂

  2. I like the part about not being too exclusive, and accepting all thoughts and opinions. Some of us have to check ourselves on that, because we can be judgmental without realizing it. I appreciate your words of wisdom on the topic. 🙂

    • Not being too exclusive is a big one for me. I’ve avoided joining communities because it seemed too difficult to get my foot in the door, or it seemed like the members wouldn’t give me the time of day because I wasn’t a part of their group. And yes! I think that accepting all thoughts and opinions is probably one of the most difficult things to do. (But also one of the most important.)

  3. It’s really difficult to break into certain groups/communities, and it’s not hard to see the cliques that roam the intrawebs. I’ve tried to break free of my comfort zone and make an attempt at some groups, even though I felt like they wouldn’t give me the time of day. The majority of time they didn’t, but I have been pleasantly surprised once or twice. Because of that experience, I do try to make every platform I’m available on as open and welcoming as possible. Still, some people are shy and you need to go out of your way to reach out and pull them in so they can be included.

    As mentioned above, sometimes you really have to stop and think about what you’re doing and saying. You have to make sure that you’re coming across as welcoming to others as you think you are. Sometimes you think you’re leaving the door open, but what you’re really doing is walking through so fast it’s closing by itself. That might not of been your intention, so it’s important to double check. Great points by everyone. What a great post.

    • YES. Cliques =/= community. I mean, cliques ARE communities, but not ones that are necessarily as successful or fun to be a part of as other, more inclusive communities. And while attempting to break into those cliques might be possible, it’s much easier to find a more welcoming community. (At least, this is what I do. Unless I have a very strong, driving reason for wanting to be a part of said clique.) I think you do a great job of establishing community, Matt. You make an effort to connect with people whether they’ve read your book or not, and I think this goes a long way toward building your own bookish community.

      I once wrote a post for On a Book Bender about the power of language and how we can say one thing, but mean (or have it interpreted as) something different. I’ve seen posts that are meant to create discussion, but the topic is presented in such a way that I end up getting defensive about how I think or what I do. (As in, the post–to me–reads like, “this is what I do and I don’t understand why people do it any differently, so what do you guys do?” This effectively shuts the door on anyone who DOES do it differently than what the poster stated.) This is why, for example (and I think we’ve discussed this before), I always present my opinion as my opinion and give my reasons for it. I like to make sure that all I’m doing is giving my perspective on it, without faulting anyone for believing something different.