Right next the “growth hacking”, the phrase “community building” became the buzzword in marketing leading into 2016. Unfortunately, most people trying to “build” a community online for their business or themselves have forgotten what a true community is and what it means to be a part of a one. At the end of the day a community is made of individuals who are bonded together through beliefs, location, or characteristics, and makes you feel accepted and heard.
Offline, we don’t force people to be a part of our community, it just happens naturally. So why is it that online we focus so much on growing the number Facebook or Twitter followers we have, commoditize likes and shares, and hope that our “community” listens to what we have to say, when we aren’t really listening to what they care about or have to say?
I say no more! If you want to foster (notice I didn’t say “build”) an online community it’s time to rid ourselves of old bad habits and craft a new strategy to get our voice heard.
Start Small: You don’t have to take on everything at once, in fact, it’s better if you don’t. Start small and just take the first step. This was the secret of Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the founder of micro finance and micro lending. Before he retired, Yunus helped thousands of people in poverty obtain business loans without collateral. He started with just $27.
Yunus surveyed people in his community about their needs and was shocked to learn that he could assist 42 people by lending just $27 of his own money. His first project was a success and he continued to build on it, finally creating Grameen Bank. By 1997, Grameen Bank had issued $6.38 billion to 7.4 million borrowers, empowering others to build businesses and improve their own situations. Yunus went on to successfully lead several other initiatives to help the poor, starting small each time.
What small action can you take today? Take it. Small actions can build on each other but you need to take that first step.
- Be Kinder
A small act of kindness creates a ripple effect that can carry from person to person, brightening many lives. From giving someone a smile to holding a door open for someone, doing chores for other people, donating to charity, or buying lunch for a friend, it doesn’t take a lot to make someone’s day a little bit better.
- Give someone a book you’ve read
- Make something for someone
- Tip generously
- Send a letter, email, tweet, or text message out of the blue
- Share Positivity
For every bit of horrible dreck floating about on the Internet or in the news, there’s an amazing, beautiful story to counteract it. Stop wallowing in the fear-mongering ugliness that the general media tries to fling at you, and instead, let yourself be inspired by the wonder, beauty, and compassion in the world.
Websites like The Daily Good, Positive News , and even Huffington Post’s “Good News” section are all filled with uplifting stories that can serve to remind you that there’s a hell of a lot of good in the world. Once your heart is glowing, tweet, and pin those stories so others can be inspired as well.
- Commend an employee to their manager
- Let someone shine
- Connect like minds
- Be a Good Neighbor
You don’t have to travel the world or live in Washington, DC to make an impact. You actually have the greatest knowledge and influence in your own backyard.
You’re probably quite vigilant with regard to disposing of garbage properly, but others may not be quite so conscientious. If you see a piece of rubbish lying about that some jerk has tossed out their car window or just dropped on the ground, throw it out. Keep a pair of rubber or latex gloves in your bag if you don’t want to touch anything that’s potentially “icky”, but keep in mind that every little bit of effort helps when it comes to cleaning up our living spaces.
- Keep the outside of your home and business clean
- Donate used clothing
- Spread the word about various causes in your community
- Donate something you made to an organization that can use it
- Donate blood
Consider the fact that our bodies are comprised of nearly 70% water, and nearly all animals and plants require water to survive. Then think about the fact that only 2% of all water on earth is drinkable, and a significant amount of that is now polluted because of all the crap we keep dumping into it. Every drop of chemical cleaner, every drop of hair dye, every bit of pesticide, paint, non-biodegradable laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. gets into the water system, and although the drinking water in cities is filtered a great deal, most of those toxins still leak into the soil and underground water table, killing life around the planet. People and animals all over the world often have to choose between dying of thirst, and poisoning themselves with tainted water supplies.
- Stop Polluting and Conserve Water
- Reconsider Your Eating Habits
Many people will argue with the validity of this strategy to improve the world; however, what you buy reflects what you value.
If you don’t want to become a vegetarian, try having one meat-free day per week. If you don’t want to reduce your meat consumption, how about buying some free range meat or eggs? Or, buy organic food products. There are many ways you can change your diet to reflect your values.
- Plant and harvest your own food
- Plant and harvest for a local food bank
- Plant flowers that attract and feed pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds
- Find Out More About What You Buy/Wear/Use
Make a list of the products and services you buy most.
Support companies that have fair trade practices and that have a triple bottom line — people, planet, and profit (not just profit).
- Take the time to learn about the companies where you do business.
- Do their business practices align with your values?
- Are there other options?
- Does your bank use ethical business practices?
- What types of projects do they fund?
- What goes into making your favorite products?
Volunteering doesn’t have to consume all of your free time. You can volunteer as few hours as you would like! You can find an organization within your community, or you can even volunteer online, through websites that will allow you to help for even a few minutes at a time.
- Teach someone how to do something
- Be a Big Beother or Sister
- Be a Foster Parent or Grandparent
- Be a Mentor
- Join a bone marrow registry
- Speak Up, and Take Action
Do you feel strongly about an issue that doesn’t get enough attention, or where change is slow?
- Become educated on the issue and what’s being done to address it.
- Then you can highlight the issue, advocate for change, share information with your friends and family.
- You can do it through modern social media, and even by writing good old-fashioned letters to your government representatives.
- Working on an issue like this, you can create a huge impact.
- With social media, your message can go viral on the internet, spreading the word even faster.
These are just a handful of the thousands of ways you can make the world a better place! Just remember that every single thing you do makes a difference. Don’t ever let anyone—yourself included—discourage you from trying to be a better person and help others.