So, I’m sitting here amid three monitors reveling at my flourishing desk plants, surrounded by my fellow marketers and community builders, as the sound coming through my earbuds drowns out their faint keyboard clicks and nearby sneezes, when it hits me: some of y’all aren’t showing your community enough love... and it shows.
I’m listening to the ever-so-delightful Jonathan Van Ness, of Netflix’s Emmy-winning show Queer Eye, chat with Reese Witherspoon about lady entrepreneurship on his podcast Getting Curious. As if their charming and gracious voices streaming into my ears wasn’t enough, their conversation is topical and genuine… and Reese just said something low-key amazing:
“I think the most profound thing you can do if you are an artist or a community builder is just throw love at the world, in any capacity you can.”
What’s Love Got to Do With It? [Online Community Building]
What Reese said got me thinking, because, here’s the thing: In this big bad world, it’s easy to forget that love is the ultimate unifier - the emotional force that drives us to connect, to crash and burn, to get back up and do it all over again. For better or worse, it can influence our behaviors and level of engagement in the relationships and communities we participate in.
For community builders looking to forge long-term relationships with their members or customers, it’s important to recognize that love can make people feel inspired, valued, and unstoppable, whereas the lack of it can cause people to lose interest and disengage.
People are willing to do just about anything for someone they love, so I ask, what are you willing to do for the online community of members or customers that you love? How can you show it?
Let’s talk about actionable ways to start figuratively throwing love at your online community so that its members can feel seen, appreciated, and inspired to let that love spill out into their work and daily lives.
After all, when you love someone, you…
1. Actively Listen to them [Their Wants, Needs & Perspectives]
You know the feeling… you’re talking to someone about something you genuinely care about, and you notice their attention has swayed from the conversation. They’ve started murmuring “uh huh” rather than offering thoughtful responses, and you eventually surrender to the notion that talking to a brick wall might be a more valuable use of your time. You might even grow annoyed or frustrated, making it less likely that you’ll be as honest and open with that person in the future. This interaction doesn’t help foster a meaningful connection – it sets you back.
Naturally, this is not how a healthy relationship flourishes. Which begs the questions:
- Are you actively listening to your community members?
- Do you know what really matters to them on an individual level?
- Have you taken the time to ask about their needs and satisfaction?
- Are you excited about what they’re excited about?
- Do they feel like their opinions matter to you?
Active listening is the cornerstone to effective communication and continued growth, so it’s a great method to utilize when you want to throw some extra love.
If you’re not sure what your audience is actually interested in, don’t make assumptions about their needs. Start tracking behavioral data within your online community to find out what matters to them and use that data to influence your outreach or deploy effective marketing automation (we promise, it’s not creepy). If you want to send them an email to check in and say hello, show some love by curating the content so that it's personalized to them and their individual interests.
The best way to find out what your online community wants is to not only ask for member feedback, but actively listen to what they are telling you. Don’t pretend to be interested, show interest by asking questions and respect by actively listening to answers. This can be in the form of a discussion post, feedback poll, helpful response to a support question, you name it.
When you’re all ears and allow members to give you feedback, it shows them that you listened and that it was helpful, which can be empowering (and empowerment is a strong motivator).
2. Empower them to Be an Active Participant in Their Endeavors
When you empower someone you love to be a go-getter, a lot can be accomplished. When you empower an entire community to be go-getters and work together toward a shared mission, the possibilities are endless. The Burning Man organization is a great example of what those possibilities look like in action. Their community of 70,000+ people is committed to a radically participatory ethic. In fact, participation is one of the Ten Principles the community thrives under:
“We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.”
If you want to open the hearts of your community members and empower them, take a page out of Burning Man’s book and throw love at them by encouraging active participation and instilling confidence in their abilities to succeed. As the organization would say, “No spectators.”
Trouble is: sometimes people lose sight of the fact that they’re in the driver’s seat of their experiences. Sometimes people who want to participate are simply unaware of the opportunities and connections available to them. It’s your job as a community builder to help connect the dots.
With a gentle reminder and ample support, you can empower the people in your community to engage with each other and extract more value through participation in your events, volunteer efforts, discussions, continuing education opportunities, and more.
When people feel supported and empowered, they transform from lurkers to leaders, from members to mentors, from volunteers to advocates, from prospects to lifelong members. What’s not to love about that?
Pro Tip: Use volunteer management software to find, track, and reward volunteer engagement with ease, incentivizing members to become advocates.
3. Motivate them to Challenge Themselves, Learn & Grow
When someone you love experiences a victory, you get to experience a piece of that, too (as their #1 fan, of course). When times are tough, patience and communication are key, and you work on the solution and growth together. When it comes to your community of members or customers, forging this kind of growth through encouragement can be incredibly rewarding.
Throw love at your community by encouraging them to participate in new things that will fuel their personal or professional growth, like an online mentoring program or educational event, for example. When you connect experienced mentors and ambitious mentees to share resources, experiences and work together to achieve professional and personal goals, everybody wins.
When you give your community access to valuable resources that will drive their success, it motivates them to keep coming back for more (thus improving retention). Continuously assess their needs (and when they change, don’t get frustrated). If you want to encourage a long-term commitment and improve retention, try to be the best possible resource you can be. Otherwise, they’ll outgrow their relationship with your community and seek value elsewhere (#thankunext).
4. Express Acknowledgement & Appreciation for Them
Have you ever felt unappreciated in a relationship? Ever loved someone who always seemed to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or worse, barely acknowledge you? (sorry to cue thoughts of your crappy ex). Okay, so maybe ‘Words of Affirmation’ isn’t your love language, but the smallest acknowledgments really can make a massive impact on healthy communication and community building. When’s the last time your community got a ‘thank you’ just because?
Throw love at your online community by expressing gratitude for their participation. You couldn’t grow your community without them. So, reward your advocates. Use gamification to incentivize and motivate volunteers, thus increasing engagement. Use marketing automation to tailor your outreach so you can send the right message to the right person at the right time. Give out branded freebies at your next event. Post a special shout-out on your social platforms to highlight a specific community member or partner organization doing something noteworthy. This can all tie back into boosting member or customer loyalty.
As Miki Agrawal, Inc. writer and entrepreneur, put simply:
“Give credit as often as you can. Just as people want to be heard, people want to be recognized. Recognize your peers when they do cool sh*t. They will want to keep doing it.”
5. Want Them to Be Satisfied (& Live Happily Ever After, With You)
All the aforementioned methods of throwing love at your online community will tie back into improving the overall satisfaction of your members and expanding the positive impact of your community. After all, when you’re in a relationship that grants you little to no satisfaction, what do you stand to gain?
Throw love at your growing community by prioritizing their overall satisfaction and happiness. Focus on delivering real value. For a variety of organizations trying to measure their future success, customer satisfaction and member satisfaction remain at the top of their priority list (where they belong). Poor satisfaction leads to a loss of interest and then BOOM… there goes your competitor running away with your ex-member (when you so had another chance).
The intersection of online community and marketing automation software can help you increase insight and retention, attract new leads, nurture existing ones, and maximize your chances of all that love leading to a long-term relationship with your community. Want to learn more about member retention? Read our blog below.
PS: If you want to listen to more of JVN and Reese's conversation, hear the full podcast here.