Being Part of a Community vs. Building a Community

I know, I know. Last week I said I was going to publish about our Marital Bliss re-release, but… I started writing this for my own edification, and decided to publish it instead. The hordes of you eager for more Marital Bliss content will have to wait a week.

Building a Community

You don’t have to work in marketing long to hear the phrase “build a community.” Generally, it means leveraging various social media platforms to connect with your audience or customers and inform, support and learn from them. This, ideally, will build your brand, generate awareness and interest, get you more followers, create more sales, and customers… all great things. Your “community” could be board gaming, health care, finance, education, etc.

But, how do you build a community around you or your business? While reflecting on my 2023 goals and evaluating last year’s I started thinking about this blog, and successful bloggers I admire. I started teasing apart what I think has made them different and how they have managed to “build a community” around their company and products.

Eventually, I came to a hypothesis: To build a community, you need to contribute to a community.

I know, “Duh” but bear with me…

The King of Community

Jamey Stegmeier, of Stonemaier Games, is the reigning king of community-building in the board gaming industry. In a recent blog post (linked above) he was articulating what’s changed as his board gaming company has grown from $64k to $25m in the last 10 years.

He covered a lot of ground in the post, but in the context of his “community” he mentions how he started out by posting two crowd-funding blog posts every week. These posts didn’t promote his own products, rather they educated the community about how to successfully create and launch their dream games on Kickstarter.

So, what does Jamey do differently, and how has he been successful in building a community? I think it boils down to a few key areas:

  • He’s personally passionate about the community. You don’t have to read many posts before you realize how invested he is and how much of his free time goes into board gaming. Here’s an easy litmus test for the rest of us: are we still involved in, learning about, and participating in our “community” when we’re off the clock? Or, do we shelve everything until the next work day? I’m not sure you can successfully build a community (it’s certainly going to be a lot harder!) if you’re not personally interested in your community.
  • The business comes second (or maybe not at all). He contributes to the community as much as (or more than) he gets from it. He has guests on his blog, he promotes unique mechanics from other games he enjoys. The focus of his contributions generally focus on growing the entire industry, not just his slice of the pie.
  • He values everyone in the community as people, not as potential transactions. Ever meet someone at a party that you can tell is just waiting for the opportunity to tell you about themselves? That’s how a lot of us have approached community building. Always looking for the angle or the right moment to spam our businesses and score a sale. It’s not a good way to make friends, and it’s sure not a good way to build a community.

Last year I had a goal to “Build a Community.” I measured it in blog posts. This year, I’m thinking a better goal might be “Contribute to a Community.” Measurement TBD.

What’s your community, and are you really part of it?

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