I give quite a lot of talks and interviews and am regularly asked “How can we connect with you“?

 

Other than saying thanks and offering help towards whatever questions that person might have as a result of my talk, my response is often ~ “Don’t connect with me“. I don’t want you to connect with me online. I’m not actually that active on social media. I now use Twitter in a totally different way than I used to for example (news and information not social networking). I would rather you connected with other people online, to make a noise, to stand for something, to raise the bar, to join a community, found a community and lead a community! You don’t need me, pick yourself.

 

Get involved in the Periscope community. Learn how to build a community on Snapchat. Write a blog around something very niche. Go and give talks to school kids or young entrepreneurs.

 

“The difference between an audience and a community is which way the chairs are facing”. Chris Brogan

 

Seriously. I’m not trying to be rude, arrogant, pretentious or anti-social, I would just prefer it if you spent more time connected to those around you.

 

I have for a long time thought that despite us being the most “connected” generation in the history of the world, we are actually more dis-connected from each other than ever before.

 

“Engaging with your fans and building a community are two totally different things”. Mitch Joel

The thing about a community is that it is a group of people who love and support each other. On a long-term basis. One of the biggest flaws with the strategy behind new apps or many marketing campaigns is they are all based upon a transactional (short-term) relationship.

 

Instead, what we should be doing is looking how we can surround ourselves with like-minded people who want to do something significant together. Instead of transactions, we should be looking for experiences. In the world of marketing, it is this need for deeper relationships (due to the erosion of consumer trust towards brands) that has lead to the current buzzwords of choice, “customer centricity” and “customer experience“. Neither of these are new concepts, terms or ideas, but the fact that they are now the priority for most CMO’s explains a lot. The world needs better relationships. Companies need to love their customers more. Organisations need to love their employees more. But as we all move so fast and flick between our 55 apps as we check our phones 150 times each day, we often forget what it means to build a real relationship, let alone build a community. Transactions look for what you can give me. Experiences prefer to ask “What can we do together?

 

“You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want”. Zig Ziglar

 

If you really want to understand what a community is, the best book I’ve ever read is probably A Different Drum by M. Scott Peck. Read here what his definition of a true community is and then ask yourself if your Facebook “community” really matches up.

 

Characteristics of a True Community by M. Scott Peck

  • Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
  • Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
  • Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
  • A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
  • A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassionand respect for each other as fellow human beings.
  • A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each other’s gifts, accept each other’s limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each other’s wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
  • A group of all leaders: Members harness the “flow of leadership” to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads, and not any single individual.
  • A spirit: The true spirit of community is the spirit of peace, love, wisdom and power. Members may view the source of this spirit as an outgrowth of the collective self or as the manifestation of a Higher Will.

 

Challenging stuff isn’t it?

 

Of course there’s a new age bent to this because it was written by M. Scott Peck after all, but the over-all sentiment is spot on. In my role as a marketer, I see very few brands who understand what building a community really means. Coke is not one of them.

 

Quick case study from a few years back…

Coca-Cola became the world’s most liked brand on Facebook a few years ago, not because they had clever ads or ran expensive paid media campaigns, but because they made it their mission to try and build a real community. Cokes overall mission for social media was to get invited in to fan based communities and co-create with their fans. Community has been at the heart of Coca-Cola for years, (they practically invented Father Christmas for goodness sake) so it’s no real surprise that they became far and away the world’s largest social brand. Coke currently have 97.3m fans on Facebook (over 30m more than #2 McDonalds) ~ but what is most fascinating about Coke’s social story is that their page was set up by two fans back in 2008, not by someone from their 3,000 strong marketing team.

 

Facebook brand pages didn’t launch until 2 years later in 2010, so when Coke saw this one page building a large community of fans, Facebook let them know they could close the page down. (The page was mistakenly set up as a page, which Coke could legally takeover, and not as a group). Instead of shutting down the page, Coke execs decided to let the fans run the page for them, since they were the most passionate brand advocates they’d ever seen. Many brands would have taken ownership, but as social is in Coca-Cola’s DNA, that was never an option. You can read more of that story here.

 

My point is this. (And this is clearly not new news…)

 

As much as we all want to “connect” with each other as quickly as possible, I’m pretty sure it’s far more rewarding to spend time with 10 or 20 people who love you (and what you do), instead of “connecting” with a few hundred people who kinda like you*.

 

Maybe instead of asking “How can I connect with you” we should ask instead, “How can I help you?”

 

Cheesy? Maybe.

 

But remember this…

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie

 

* Brian Chesky (Founder of Airbnb) once told me “Better to have 100 people love you than 1m people kinda like you“.

 

Evangelist @IBM • IBM Watson • Travel Around Talking about AI, Big Data and the Future of Marketing • Lover of Old Business Books and Good Bourbon • Based in London, UK.

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