Community Building: Vital To Moving Everywhere (Else)

community (c)Laura Whitener

EE Tennessee attendees mingle at Startup Ave.

Community size can flux, but for entrepreneurs it’s not the size that matters, it’s how real it is. Community means vitality, which means loyalty early and later down the line.

At EE Tennessee, the first three speakers of the morning all spoke about one common idea: community being vital to a business. Jared Steffes, founder and president of FuryWing, Ryan Hoover, co-creater of Product Hunt, and Mike Muhney, co-founder of ACT!, all spoke about tapping in to community, pre-existing or not, to build their success.

Building a community, or falling back on one, is the best survival tool a startup can have tucked in their belt and there are four key components to building up and maintaining one of the best assets for your startup:

  • Be Genuine

Branding yourself as the guy who simply sends out a spammy Tweet or email with a link to “read more!” won’t get you far.

Meaningful relationships, or at least communication, is the foundation for gathering a community of potential users, early adopters, and brand loyalists.

If you don’t have something meaningful to say or if you can’t put in the time to maintain a conversation with someone, are you really contributing to a community or are you spam marketing?

  • Don’t Be Afraid To be Accessible

Just because you’re based in Chicago, Silicon Valley, or New York doesn’t mean that you have instant access to a community who is ready and willing.

No one can be everywhere at once, but you can be mobile and move to where your audience is. Host a meet up. Go to a conference and mingle.

Making yourself visible and accessible opens a lot of doors for community builders.

  • Find Your Best Means of Communication

Can’t meet up in person? You can still maintain genuine contact. Email or other one-to-one sources of getting and staying in touch can promote a more personal feel.

Even if you’re sending out a simple form-style email, by directly addressing that member of your community, you’re more likely to get a response because you’re establishing a connection instead of automating a process.

  • Gather Loyalty Before the Product

Building your community before your brand means gathering the loyalists before a product. Your community can be a vital tool for bringing your business from garage-based startup to office-based success by simply hosting conversations about your brand.

Involving your community from the beginning gives both you and your followers something to talk about, which gets other people talking. Drive interest by creating interest. Those early adopters can drive the voice and the life of your community.

According to Hoover, a loyal community member is the best marketing for your business: they’re more likely to Tweet about, Facebook about, and talk about your business, and with a little schwag you even can make them feel like a valuable member of your business’s community.

Without community, or clients, or users, or customers, businesses don’t work. Build a better community to build your brand.

Laura Whitener is the Managing Editor for, a technology news and resource site for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Follow them on Twitter


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