Actor by training
Biz owner by choice
Wildly enthusiastic by nature

I work with the enthusiastic overthinkers among us to clarify exactly what it is they do and why it matters through equity-centered coaching,  and values-based  copywriting.

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I'm Megan - the wordsmith behind MD&Co.

How To Nurture Authentic Community Online

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Megan Dowd

Human First, Biz Second®

Hands raised if you’re cruising through These Uncertain Times™ by the grace of your new plant babies.
(I see you, I know it’s not just me.)

The more we make our homes an oasis from the outside world, the more we delight in filling our surroundings with living things that won’t try to kill us. I’ve got my multiple golden pothos, a snake plant, a venus fly trap I gifted Husburrito, and a succulent on the windowsill above the sink—suffice it to say, I LOVE my plants. I adore nurturing them, creating an environment where they can flourish, and I absolutely delight in new growth.

And I know I’m late to the party on this one, but holy cats, propagating plants is SO COOL. Using trimmings to nurture more growth, share plants with others, or fill out a scraggly little pothos?

Yes, thank you, count me in. That a tiny clipping can flourish with the right cultivation and curation will always blow my mind and delight me.

In a not-so-subtle segue, this can serve as a pretty perfect parallel for how to build an online community – and build it authentically.

Building an authentic community online consists of careful curation and cultivation (this blog post brought to you by the letter “C”). You’re curating who you interact with and how they interact with you through your content forms, channels, etc.; and you’re cultivating relationships through those interactions.

What is an Authentic Community?

Authentic communities:

  • Set expectations and meet or exceed them: Everyone understands the guidelines and expectations and honors them.
  • Operate with honesty and transparency: Mistakes happen, but they are addressed with integrity and openness.
  • Offer support freely: Members feel supported by the community and offer support without conditions.

So, how do you get these glorious connections online in your marketing?

Through what I’m naming The Propagation Process for Nurturing Authentic Community Online (aka The Propagation Process). With it, you can properly prime your people for connection and build a flourishing online community around your content.

Step 1: Curate your content

Cu·rate | verb
select, organize, and present (online content, merchandise, information, etc.), typically using professional or expert knowledge.

You are the professional!
You are the expert!
It’s your responsibility to select, organize, and present the knowledge you see fit to share in a manner that nurtures the type of audience and community you want.

In so many ways, this is what folks are actually getting at when they talk about niching your content. What they’re asking you to do is curate what you share and who you share it with to facilitate the highest engagement.

So how do you do this? I’m so glad you asked…

Simple Content Buckets Starters

Creating specific topics of discussion for your social media presence, your emails, your blog articles—that specificity is what breeds connection. Content buckets structure that specificity into your marketing plan.

To develop your initial buckets, consider:

  • What do you do?: On a macro and micro level, there’s so much to dig into. Start with the big picture (impact you aim to make) and fill in with day-to-day details.
  • Why do you do it?: A values-based approach digs into the core values of your business and why they matter to you.
  • Highlight your faves: What makes your day-to-day just a little bit better? Highlight favorite clients, customers, or products, and give a shout-out to an important part of your workday.

Facilitate engagement

The strongest communities on the internet are the ones in which ideas are exchanged freely. Curating your content facilitates dialogue, a necessity for engagement.

By creating loose boundaries around what you post (aka content buckets), you can facilitate conversations as you want. Use that content to ask questions of your audience, take to IG stories to ask them directly, invite a reply to every email you send out (and then ACTUALLY engage with every reply!).

You’re not asking for conversation and engagement to get your numbers up—you’re asking because you’re invested in the conversations that happen when you do. The numbers are just a secondary perk.

Step 2: Cultivate the conversation

Cul·ti·vate | verb
raise or grow (plants); try to win the friendship or favor of (someone)

Cultivating is creating the conditions for growth. You can do this by…

Guiding the Conversation

Cultivation with an online community, especially on social media, is a constant give and take. It requires listening to who’s showing up, what their perspectives are, and circling back to curation as necessary. The dialogue you curate is also what cultivates connection.

People want to feel heard.

We want to feel seen and listened to.

We want a sense of belonging.

By issuing a clear invitation into the types of conversations you have in your online space, and detailing how folks can engage in those conversations, you are cultivating a sense of trust and brand loyalty through dialogue. You are establishing the humanity of your online presence. And that right there is prime cultivation.

Consistency ≠ frequency

Finally, in selecting what to share and how to engage with others around that conversation, the final key element of the curation/cultivation cycle is consistency.

Set the expectation. Then meet or exceed it.

No, the algorithm doesn’t hate you.

No, a new email service isn’t going to spike your open rates.

No, you don’t need to hire a 1:1 SEO expert.

What you need is a Human First schedule that you can stick to.

If you’re nailing all the other elements, folks don’t care if you’re posting once a day, once a week, or once a month so long as they know when to expect you.

If you’re not stoked about who’s showing up? It’s back to curation to ensure your messaging is inviting that niche in with clarity and directness.

Authentic community care is key.

The Propagation Process is simply a cheeky name for community care—all well-resourced communities are in a constant state of cultivation and curation because that act of nurturing connection begets a sense of community.

By alternating between curating and cultivating, you can create the conditions for an authentic community that flourishes effortlessly.

Remember, the success of your online community mirrors the success of your plant propagation: it requires care, attention, and the right conditions. So, as you nurture your plant babies, think about how you can apply the same principles to nurture your online community. Happy growing! 😉