Breather is a new service that lets you find beautiful, practical spaces that you can reserve on the go. Some say its like Airbnb for non-sleeping spaces that help you find peace and quiet, on demand, in busy cities.
A community comes in many forms. It’s greatest form, some might say, is a movement. David Spinks elaborates…
I know, it’s a bold request to ask a startup to focus on anything other than their product and growth.
I know, because I’m a startup founder myself.
Time is our most limited resource and that you have to say no to a lot of things in order to maintain your focus, and sanity.
So why am I writing a post telling you to focus on community? Because I’ve seen first hand, and in the example of many other startups, the power that community can wield even at the earliest stages of your growth.
Lyft, Airbnb, Eventbrite, Lift, Foursquare, Soundcloud, Skillshare, Udemy, Github, Binpress, Yammer, Hootsuite, Buffer… I could rattle off startups all day who have invested a great deal of time and resources into building community. Social products, B2B, B2C, technical products, toys, fitness, non profits… name the kind of company and I can name several companies building a strong community around their brand and products.
Why is that? With all the things a startup has to figure out, why do they focus on community?
7. Create highly engaged evangelists
The simplest and most valuable thing you’ll get from a community is highly engaged customers or users.
When done right, your community creates a sense of belonging. Members feel like they’re part of something important and they’re proud, they feel special. Their experience with your brand then becomes so much more than just products and features. They develop strong emotions around your brand. They build relationships with other members.
My mentor Aki Sano once said something along the lines of “You’ll know you have a great business when you can find just one person who’s absolutely in love with your product”.
I’ve seen first hand how building a strong community can create an environment where your members do in fact fall in love with your brand.
This high engagement leads to the rest of the benefits…
6. Stay close to your customers
Perhaps the most important value is that you get to stay very close to your customers.
Your community = your customers.
By creating a community where your users/customers can interact, converse, share and help each other, it gives you an opportunity to be a fly on the wall and learn more about who they are.
There are things you’ll learn from watching them talk to each other that you’ll never see in a survey.
And when you have a highly engaged community, you have a pool of customers that you can call on individually to give feedback, test features, hop on a call or whatever else you need to do to learn more about their experience.
5. Support network for reviews and rebuttals
For many companies, getting good reviews early on can make your product. Your community will jump at the opportunity to support you and show you some love.
They’ll also be a great resource for testimonials. When we needed some more customer quotes for our homepage, it was as simple as posting in the community and asking for volunteers.
At the same time, there’s a good chance if you’re building up some steam that there will be trolls out there to pull you down. Your community can be the people who stand up to defend you and call out their bullshit.
4. Build the foundation for a movement
A community comes in many forms. It’s greatest form, some might say, is a movement.
You’re an entrepreneur, which probably means you’ve set your sights on a real big vision. You’re not looking to just make a quick buck. You’re in it to change the world.
Well, community is what can help you get there. All of the massive companies you know today started with a small, loyal community. That first community serves as the foundation for growth for years to come. Look at Facebook, Instagram, Ebay, Pinterest, Craigslist, Couchsurfing, Meetup, Yelp… I can go on. They all started with a small, loyal community that developed into a larger movement.
3. Improve your customers’ experience
Humans need community. It’s helped us evolve and survive since the beginning of our time. It touches on a basic human need.
So when we have the chance to become part of a community and feel that sense of belonging, we’re happy. That means that community can serve as an added bonus for your product. Not only do your customers get access to your features, they get access to a support group, a network of peers.
Most products become better when people don’t feel like they’re alone in the game.
Anyone might be able to copy your product, your brand, your design and even your voice. But there’s one thing no other company will ever be able to copy and that’s your community.
There’s no faking community. A true community is built on relationships that can only be formed through genuine interactions and a dynamic of trust and respect. This dynamic can take a long time to develop.
Your community members are loyal, and they’ve invested time into building a reputation amongst the group of peers that you’ve brought together. It will take a lot for another company to take that away from you.
1. Make more money
In the end, it’s just a good business strategy. Your community members, being more loyal and engaged, are more likely to come back and buy again.
Make people happy. That’s what it’s all about. If you can do that, with your product and potentially with a community, you’re on your way.
Now I’m not saying every startup should blindly jump into building a community now. It’s important to understand why you need a community. It’s important to tie it back to your goals and make sure it’s in line with everything else you’re working on.
So take a look at what it is you’re really hoping to accomplish and then think about how a community might be able to help you achieve those goals.
Not sure where to get started?
If you want to become more efficient at building community for your startup, and understand how community dynamics work, come join us at CMX Summit on Feb 6 in San Francisco. (Use promo code ‘thefetch25’ for 25% off.)
We’re bringing together some of the world’s leading minds with completely unique perspectives on how to build communities. Or if you’re looking to hire a community manager, you’re guaranteed to meet the industry’s best at CMX.
About our contributor // David Spinks is the CEO of TheCommunityManager.com and LetsFeast.com. Lifelong student, community builder and writer. Follow him on Twitter via @DavidSpinks.
This week we interview Neal Gorenflo, Publisher of Shareable Magazine. Follow Neal on Twitter via @Gorenflo.
Shareable’s tagline is: “Sharing by design” – what exactly do you mean by that?
We mean sharing with the intention and rigor that comes with design. In other words, sharing done well.
I believe sharing takes more thoughtfulness than buying, but done well, yields much more satisfaction and practical value.
What were the greatest lessons you took away from moving from the corporate world to starting an online magazine?
That the power of commitment is immense. My commitment to sharing is the first time I’ve felt truly committed to anything. I had been searching for something that I could believe in my whole adult life. It was such a relief to finally find something that was meaningful to me. This commitment is my fuel and compass. It keeps me on track and powered up to do what ever it takes to reach my goals.
You’ve said that you are working towards a resilient society. Why is resilience important?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from “disturbances” and maintain structure and function.
This is important because life is characterized by cycles, which includes high points and also big setbacks. Setbacks are a chance to rebuild and gain even more resilience.
This is true for individuals and also our civilization. And in a time of big, converging, and urgent crises, we have a chance to go for something better than what’s been before.
Do you find a political or socio-economic typecast exists when it comes to valuing the sharing economy? Is it for everyone?
Yes, but our story about who we are and what makes us strong in the US is badly distorted. We believe our strength comes from our individualism and our market economy. This is backwards – we’re strong and resilient because of our social ties, our cooperation, and what we share. We take all that we share for granted – language, culture, nature, scientific knowledge, information in the public domain, industrial standards, streets, sidewalks, parks, public transportation, open source software, and more. The health of our market economy depends on the health of these commons. These commons are the feedstocks and building blocks of creative activity. Without them we can’t be the individuals or have markets that we imagine are good for us.
This isn’t to say that individualism and individual freedoms aren’t important. They are, but I believe our real strength comes from being individuals and in community at the same time.
The remarkable book, Made In America, which analyzes the American character from the revolution to today, makes the case that yes, Americans are individualistic, but they also know that to get what they want, they must work together. Americans have a unique drive to work together to pursue common interests, and do it in a bottom up fashion relying on our own initiative aside from government. This is evident in our large and diverse nonprofit sector, and the incredible number of professional and trade associations.
A Henry Miller quote comes to mind:
“To be cured we must rise from our graves and throw off the cerements of the dead. Nobody can do it for another – it is a private affair which is best done collectively. We must die as egos and be born again in the swarm, not separated and self-hypnotized, but individual and related.” ~The Rosy Crucifixion
What are your favoriting sharing and collaborative consumption startups?
I use Yerdle, RelayRides, Getaround, Sidecar, Lyft, Airbnb, TrustCloud, Scoot, TaskRabbit, Hub SoMa Coworking, and more. I actually conducted a life experiment called, The Year of Living Shareably, where I tried many of these services out for the first time. My family saved $17,000 that year and we made a bunch of new friends.
I’m also interested in the free coworking movement, represented by Seats2Meet in the Netherlands, the new wave of Freecycle-type businesses like FreecyclePlus, and all the new food sharing startups like Feastly and Cookening.
What’s next for you and Shareable?
We’ve built the largest online audience about the sharing economy. We’re going to leverage this to catalyze more sharing on the ground. Stay tuned!
About our Curator // Kate Kendall is the founder and CEO of The Fetch, a community where professionals can discover and share what’s happening in their city. Before this, Kate led product, content and digital at magazine companies, handled outreach for new startups and organised too many communities and events to mention. Follow her on Twitter at @katekendall.
Name: Michelle Matthews
Twitter handle/Instagram: @SecretsHQ
Works at: Deck of Secrets
Tell us the story behind Deck of Secrets…
Deck of Secrets is city guide brand that takes the format of a deck of cards. Each deck features a highly specialised topic such the latest Breakfast & Brunch guide for London.
What role has digital, especially mobile, played in publishing and city guides?
The first digital impact was the move to digital cameras. Professional photographers took longer to make the move so I bought a very expensive DSLR back in 2001 and gave it to the photographer to use. A $5k digital camera was easy to justify when it saved $7k of scanning plus film and processing. Then the advances with Adobe Acrobat which allowed for in-screen editing as opposed to printing out hundreds of pages every for every draft. After much flirting with mobile platforms I teamed up with Shaun Ervine in 2008 to release DRINK. Melbourne an iPhone app guide to Melbourne’s bars, one of the first 10,000 apps released. This was followed by a dining guide for Sydney which was featured on the “There’s an app for that” TV commercial. These days I’m looking more to behind the scenes cloud services to manage my increasingly nomadic and minimalist lifestyle. A recent favourite is https://www.receipt-bank.com
Who do you think is doing cool stuff in our industries?
- Instagram is a real passion of mine. An elegant app, fun and easy to use with just the right amount of features. http://statigr.am and http://printstagr.am/ add the fun and functionality.
- Lockitron is a hardware and software combo that allows home owners to grant access to their property remotely and allows the front door to be opened using a mobile app. Perfect for Airbnb hosts.
- Memrise: I’m working on my Spanish with this interactive learning website in preparation for a few months in Madrid later this year.
- Bitcasa: “Infinite storage on your desktop” OK, you got me, where do I sign. I love the promise of this new website still in beta mode.
- The Sixty One: this site isn’t new but I listen to it for hours each day discovering great new music.
You’re a big Airbnb advocate and live a digital nomad lifestyle – what does this involve and what tips do you have for someone wanting to emulate your life?
Airbnb started as a great way to earn revenue while I was on holiday, then a month long booking allowed me to take another location independent trip but now as Airbnb has grown I’m more away than at home and my mortgage is covered. And when I travel, Airbnb is always my first choice for accommodation. It has truly changed my life.
What’s your favourite city in the world?
After countless visits I finally fell in love with London in 2011. In 2009 I would have said Buenos Aires. It was Tokyo in 1995. And it’s always Melbourne.
What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to face work-wise?
Preparing for the next change, staying positive and not giving up. Last year the equivalent of 50% of my retail outlets shut down, one of my distributors/sales teams is about to shut down and margins are shrinking. In business and I life I now aim for simplicity, efficiency and varied revenue streams.
What’s next for you and your business?
I’m expanding my range of UK titles currently there are two: bars, breakfast and brunch. But I’m heading to Bali next month so perhaps you’ll see a Bali guide come out of that.
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