How do you build a community? How do you find the common thread that will bring you and your readers together?
Louis Marino, author of 5 Things Lady Gaga Can Teach Marketers About Community Building, writes about what folks can learn from musicians like Lady Gaga about building communities. I've paraphrased his points and whittled them down to three because this post is for writers and, lets face it, we tend to be a just a wee bit less social. I mean, have you ever heard of Nora Roberts groupies? ;)
1. Engage people with similar interests. Deliver a great experience that relates to something your fans are passionate about, something they will share amongst themselves and that will contribute to building the soul of the movement.
2. Be vulnerable. Know who you are, your strengths and weaknesses. By being honest and open about who you are you will attract those like you, people who can relate to you, and who you can relate to.
3. Your readers are your boss. Go out of your way to honor them, to show them that they are essential.
I worked for five years at Island DefJam, a label that has a wide-ranging artist roster covering everything from hip-hop to R&B to country. You might think that a rapper from Brooklyn wouldn’t have much reason (or desire) to connect with a country crooner out of Arkansas. But as it turned out, the opposite was true--I soon saw that they were actually a very tightknit community. No matter their genre or origins, these musicians unfailingly came out to support each other, watch each other’s performances, hang out backstage, share ideas, and make music together. It was clear that they truly loved and respected each other. That steady support and genuine respect formed the basis of their community. As do all communities, they shared common interests and a like-mindedness that was real and authentic.LM notes that this is true for Lady Gaga as well. Lady Gaga doesn't view being involved with her fans through social media as drudgery. For Gaga, her fans are her community, she is loyal to them just as they are to her.
These artists applied this unspoken value for community to their fans as well. One thing that I noticed always separated the great artists from the rest was their absolute devotion to their fans. They didn’t view their fans as walking wallets--for them, their most important task was to make sure that every fan experience was meaningful and memorable. They understood that it was the fans that make the artist a success. Essentially, they knew the fans were their bosses.
That's how these music artists carefully cultivated strong communities of fans that felt cared for--because they were. Those fans were loved. And the secret to that artist/audience love was always authenticity.
The key to building community is loyalty and here I'm not speaking about a fan's loyalty to an author or to a celebrity, but the author's loyalty to their fans. Even though Gaga has millions of fans (35 million Facebook friends and 10 million Twitter followers) she acts as though she is a member of a small, intimate and fiercely loyal community.
In the comments to LM's article Claire makes the comment that communities aren't made, they are facilitated. She writes:
As for authenticity - you don't create communities, you facilitate them. That's perhaps semantics, but it's an important distinction. Communities do spring up themselves, but taking an interest and facilitating them is the best way forward. Gaga does that in so many ways and it's an extremely positive experience for fans. ... Talk to them, get involved in their community and support what they want to do with it.Food for thought.