Your community is in the room

My friend Gary has been quoted as saying "Community starts with one". In other words, a community can begin with just one person besides yourself. If you are building an online community this fact can quickly be, and wrongfully so, ignored due to the massive amount of people online. It isn’t very long into any venture that you will begin to feel as though it isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

I’m here to tell you of a new way to quantify community and a new way to gauge how well you are doing building that community. Let’s face it, while Gary is right – that community starts with one – you can’t achieve your goal with only one. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to spread a message, teach people about a given topic, sell a product, or earn money from advertising – you can’t do that with only one person in your community.

Try to think of your community as being in the room with you. And, if I may digress for one moment, by community I mean people that actively participate in whatever you are doing. Not every single person that walks by, but those that come into the room, chat, sit down, or even remove their coat. Having one person in the room with you is nice but add a few more and you’ve got a party.

I’ve had people that are building online communities say to me "I only have 600 people…" in their community. If you take Gary’s advice, you’re well on your way to building a large community. But, if you use this new way of gauging how well your community is doing – you’d have an incredibly full room and an amazing amount of potential.

Lets take my reasons for building a community above and break them down using that 600 person metric. Spreading a message, we’ll use the Green movement as an example, with 600 active community members in this movement you could do some real damage. You could make some big moves. If you had a room full of 600 people that are crazy about the Green movement – what could you do? You could storm an entire city and spread a message. You could create a campaign for each of those people to educate just one other person about using Green materials to build a house and you may come away with a much larger community in short order.

Now, onto the finances of it. If you’re building a community to make money – presumably through selling a product or service or by advertising – here is how having 600 people in your community is no joke. We see several tech conferences that cost hundreds of dollars each and every year. Even though the community members for these conferences have to fork over their hard-earned money to even get into the room, they are typically bombarded by information from various sponsors. Sponsors for these events, which sometimes have 500 to 1000 people at them, pay thousands of dollars for those sponsorships. Thousands. For one day events and a handout. So do you think you could find a sponsor for your community, especially one that aligns with the overall message or product for your community, that’d be willing to sponsor some type of activity or campaign? I have no doubt that you could.

I’m not suggesting that you go out and find sponsorships against your 600-person community. I’m simply showing you that with even a relatively small online community – it is full of potential.

So please stop complaining that your community isn’t full of millions of people. Maybe you don’t have a big enough room. Communities do not have to be millions strong to be valuable. Think of your community as being in the room with you and think of ways to energize that community much in the same way you would as if they really were in the room with you, and I believe the possibilities are endless.

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