Remember the moment when you hit live on your website, created your first IG biz account, set that FB biz page to ‘public?’
It’s freakin’ thrilling to go from “hey I do this thing really well” to “I’m building a business on my own around this one thing I do really well WOULD YOU LIKE TO FOLLOW ME AND THEREBY GIVE ME SOCIAL PROOF OF MY EFFECTIVENESS?”
Or something like that.
We want folks to follow us, to like us (in all senses of that word), and we all reach a certain point where follower numbers just don’t cut it any more. Which feels antithetical because wasn’t that the point of growth on social media when we first started out??
With very few exceptions, I don’t think anyone starts an IG account for their business with the express intent of growing the follower numbers. At the start, yes followers are how you start getting your message out there; but we get tricked into thinking that the growing numbers that equated success (the very real first growth spurt of our business) means that numbers equal success.
Hello correlation not causation.
Elevating your followers into a community isn’t just necessary for a successful brand, it’s better for social apps as a whole because it creates mini-ecosystems.
Let’s start with what’s in it for your followers:
When you elevate your following into an actual community, your audience has three distinct advantages in your space than in other, un-communified spaces:
Followings that have been elevated into community immediately create an internal support system. Members of your audience know that the other folks there have their back, on and off the app.
They know what you value, they know what each other values, and they have a better sense of boundaries and how to reach out for support. Building community into your business model, and ESPECIALLY elevating a following into community immediately roots your work and strengthens the group dynamic as a whole because of the support it lends.
One of the best examples of this is Monica Chavez of House of Esperanza. Just check out the comments section on *any* of her posts and you’ll immediately see the sense of community and support among her followers.
Sure, they’re there to love up on her and her post, but beyond that there is a deep sense of connection among her followers. Because of Chavez’s care in building her following, we know immediately what our shared value sets are AND that it’s encouraged to ask for help, ideas, tutorials, etc in this space. What House of Esperanza does that is so different from so many other DIY influencer accounts is the sheer volume of exchange of support. It’s staggering and gorgeous to watch.
Secondly, community over sheer follower numbers encourages a free exchange of ideas. We know in your space, when it’s about the health of the group and not about you as the singular leader, that it’s ok for us to draw inspiration from each other. It’s truly what Rising Tide Society has been getting at for so many years: #communityovercompetition. And when a following is more than a collection of audience members and truly a community, we know that gathering inspiration from each other is just part of the journey.
Finally, your followers gain an indispensable amount of perspective when they’re not just a number to you. When you lead audience from just following you into a community of like-minded humans, you are naturally encouraging different perspectives, allowing followers to challenge each other and drive conversations. When we are forced to confront different perspectives in a space with commonly shared values, we grow and learn. And assuming you’re not in it for the follower count, is there anything better for an audience on a social app?
Want to see someone driving and challenging perspective, check out Trudi Lebron and her team. Lebron has a number of offerings for DEI training and guidance, from corporate high-level to financially accessible workshops, and even if you don’t commit financially there’s a free podcast. Where she and her team excel is the level of dedication to every person that comes into contact with that content, rather than only paying attention to the big-paying clients. Conversations and discussions are facilitated at every level of the content ecosystem, and there’s truly a sense of camaraderie among folks in her following. Everyone who’s there has a shared goal and value set, and we know this is a safe space to be challenged as we grow.
So what’s in it for you, the biz owner?
As the business owner, you have some very tangible incentive to elevate your following into a community. These are, of course, not limited to the following but for now let’s focus on:
1. Market Research
2. Brand Loyalty
First off, when your following is elevated into an actual community, folks are EXCITED to engage with you and tell you what’s what. Because we have a sense that we are valued as an individual within your following, not merely a number you’re trying to grow, we feel that our input is valued. We’re far more likely to give you our real thoughts and offer opinions about what we like and don’t like.
Engagement getting stagnant? It’s time to do some market research to get a read on the pulse of the group.
And as your market research helps you hone your messaging and content, and your audience fills with folks who know they’re joining a community (not just a following) your brand loyalty is going to SKYROCKET.
Remember, you’re not just building a community of folks who are potential clients, you’re also building community of folks who will refer you, folks who will mention your name in the right rooms, folks who will happily sing your praises to the people who ARE your ideal potential clients. By filling your audience with not just ideal client types, but a wide variety of ideal humans who will elevate the following into community, you will establish a strong sense of brand loyalty. And that feedback circle of brand loyalty and community only strengthens a business’s online presence.
Finally, as a leader facilitating community, you will regularly find inspiration among your own community. Because you’re building a space where ideas are exchanged, perspectives are challenged, and support is encouraged, you’re free form the pressure of Knowing All The Answers. You can (and should always!) freely admit when you don’t know something, and allowing members of your community to step forward with answers and thoughts and opinions not only feeds them, it feeds you too. Allow yourself to be inspired by the amazing humans you have drawn into your orbit.
And if you’re never inspired by the folks around you? Time to re-evaluate what it is you actually value (and if you actually WANT a community over a following).
Elevating your following into an actual community of folks with common values, shared goals, and a resonant vision for a better world is how we can best use social media (looking at you, Instagram).
While we can argue whether or not social media was created For Good or For Evil, there’s no denying the positive impact social media can have when it’s used to cultivate strong communities.