When we look at professional networks, it’s easy to get hung up on reach—the more the better, basically. And reach is good! In sales and marketing, you want a large group of people who understand what you have to offer. Reach just doesn’t tell the whole story.
A small, passionate community of like-minded people can often accomplish far more than a larger, less-connected group working on the same challenge. Building a dedicated community takes effort, but it’s one of the most effective ways to build your brand. The power of relationships scales up when you create opportunities for passionate people to connect.
Small Communities Consistently Tackle Big Tasks
Shared knowledge is one of the biggest benefits of community. When you’re trying to decide between the latest iPhone or Galaxy, or you want to learn how to calibrate your new TV, you visit a blog, message board, or social page dedicated to tech. The level of detail and responsiveness you get from that community will far surpass anything you could piece together by pulling data from disparate sources.
Whether the community is sponsored by Samsung or Apple is almost irrelevant, as both brands get a boost from the brainpower of the passionate communities surrounding their products. Building communities is what we do as humans, and it goes much further than just gathering an audience. Getting that audience fired up about something, getting them to bond, explodes the power of word of mouth. It makes things happen.
For instance, nothing brings out the community spirit quite like troubleshooting a challenge. Lifehacker, for one, has built a vibrant blogging community around the concept of finding new, unique solutions to nagging everyday problems. The same concept works within a larger company—sometimes, you just need to put a few passionate people on a problem and get out of the way.
Twitter is a great marketing tool because communities pop up almost organically. It’s compartmentalized but not contained. Communities cross over into one another and intersect in places you’d never expect. By bringing together people from different backgrounds, you get a more robust conversation—whether you’re talking about exciting advances in astrophysics or brainstorming ideas for a world-class event.
Communities can accomplish a lot when assembled to solve a problem, but that’s not the only benefit to building a passionate group. When people organize to talk about your products or services, the most passionate members of the group double as great advocates. You do your part by creating an excellent product and encouraging conversation, while the relationships you build help spread the word beyond the bounds of your community.
So don’t get hung up on the size of your network. Instead, whether it’s around a cause, a topic of interest, or developing your next product or service… work on ways to connect that network into, and empower/enable, vibrant communities. Networks are just a series of nodes, communities supports each other, looks out for each other, and have lifeblood. Don’t underestimate the power of the “collective.”