3 Secrets For Growing a Community Online

By jseevers · PUBLISHED March 23, 2016 · UPDATED March 23, 2016

As marketers we are continually seeking ways to reach and connect with our audience. But more than that, we want community. Community is more than simply a group of buyers. Community seeks to connect with your brand. They believe in the central idea or core value proposition you offer, and want to share it with others. So how do you take your message and develop a community out of it?

Although Mautic is still young, we’re amazed at the community that we've been surrounded by. As we seek to foster this growth, we thought we’d share some key themes for how to develop a vibrant, connected community.


Change Your Language

When we set out to develop Mautic, we started with an idea. We wanted to change the way people looked at marketing. We wanted to level the playing field for every business and help them connect with their audience in a meaningful way. But we knew it was going to take a special group of people who felt as connected to the vision as we did. This is true of any brand. But it had to begin by changing our language. How often do we talk about "converting leads"? Whether we like it or not, we are conditioned as marketers to consider our buyers as potential leads, instead of individuals who are part of a community. It may be semantics, but if your brand wants to build a true community, you will see them and describe them differently. It will also change the way you interact with them.

Would you rather be considered a lead or a guest? Disney has built a culture and a brand that seeks to interact with people in a different way. It permeates their brand and the language they use everyday. In the book Built To Last, Jim Collins describes the terminology that Disney uses to build the voice of the Disney brand.

  • Employees are “cast members.”
  • Customers are “guests.”
  • A crowd is an “audience.”
  • A work shift is a “performance.”
  • A job is a “part.”
  • A job description is a “script.”
  • A uniform is a “costume.”
  • The personnel department is “casting.”
  • Being on duty is “onstage.”
  • Being off duty is “backstage.”

These simple changes to their language reinforces the message they seek to communicate. It also greatly impacts the customer or "guest" experience. If you're like Disney and your central message is "making people happy", you will not call your guests, potential leads.

Make Community Sticky

In their book Made to Stick, the Heath brothers reveal the key elements to making ideas stick. These core tenets are vital to not only growing ideas, but communities as well. They are: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and Stories.

  • Simple: If your mother doesn't understand your core message, start again. Your central value statement should be simple and easy to interpret.
  • Unexpected: How do you get someone’s attention? You must be willing to do something that is out of the norm. How about giving away powerful software for free?
  • Concrete: No business speak here. Your message must not mince words. You must say exactly what you mean, and mean exactly what you say.
  • Credible: Does your message backup your value? How can people determine this? Are there reliable sources? Can your community test your product or service?
  • Emotional: This often makes people in business feel uncomfortable. Research shows us again and again that we are driven by emotion or feelings. Don’t be afraid to get real.
  • Stories: Who in your community uses your product or service? What are they using it for? Is it changing their life in some way? These stories will serve to further connect and fuel your community.

Mautic is filled with individuals who have gravitated to these principles. Leaders like Takuro Hishikawa in Japan, Rodrigo Demetrio in Brasil and even more in Europe, Thailand, the US and around the world. These individuals jump in and help others by equipping them with translated documentation. They gather their network to share common ideas and solutions. They take their free time to assist those who are trying to setup and troubleshoot. This is community.

Everyone who has contributed to Mautic has engaged and participated because they believe in one or more of these "sticky" principles. It connects them at a level that is deeper than simply intrinsic value. It’s a feeling.

Feelings and Idea Flow

In addition to the key elements above, when a community is developed, it must not remain stagnant. There is a flow that naturally comes from collaborating with others as we move toward the realization of a common ideal. In the book Social Physics, Alex Pentland highlights this with the concept of idea flow;

“Synchronization and uniformity of idea flow within a group is critical: When an overwhelming majority seem ready to adopt a new idea, this convinces even the skeptics to go along. A surprising finding is that when people are working together doing the same thing in synchrony with others— e.g., rowing together, dancing together — our bodies release endorphins, natural opiates that give a pleasant high as a reward for working together.”

It feels good to be part of a team that works together to realize a vision. This is not simply research. This is a physiological fact. When you feel connected to a community that is aligned around a common goal, your body engages. It gives you that sense of accomplishment, a sense that provides feedback in the form of emotional satisfaction.

The Right Kind of Community

We’ve highlighted some key elements to developing your community online. But we must be careful to grow the right kind of community. It is not simply a “group of people that share a similar characteristic”. This is more about facts and figures than principles and ideals. True community is a “feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” This definition is what makes our communities sticky. Promoting this concept and designing an idea flow by helping each other achieve our goals, is what will truly connect us.

This translates directly to how we market and sell. When we recognize that sales creates customers and that community creates advocacy, it changes the way we interact. We will make efforts to connect with them using a different language, on a higher level and with a common purpose.

This approach works. Over the last year and a half Mautic has seen tremendous growth. We have used these principles to grow a simple idea into 10,000 communicators who have used Mautic and a community of over 4,500 individuals who consistently interact with and share the vision of a marketing solution that thinks differently.

As you seek to reach your audience and develop your brand, what are other principles you’ve discovered to help your community grow? Share them in the comments below!