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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Who Is Your Community For?

Written By: Sarah Robinson | Comments Off on Who Is Your Community For?

Everyone is building a community – businesses, non-profits, authors, bloggers – everyone. Why? Because a community gives you a group of people who rally around your cause, your book, your book, your idea. Without a community, we have no one to create for.

In my work at Fierce Loyalty, I pay close attention to all of these community-building efforts. I see wildly successful, thriving communities and I see communities that sputter and struggle. What separates the two? Many things, of course. But there is one thing that I notice over and over again.

Thriving communities know exactly who they are built for.

Well of course, Sarah. All communities know exactly who they are built for.  Ahhhh – not so, Grasshopper. 

If I asked many of you who your community is built for, you would say “entrepreneurs.” An excellent start, but it’s not specific enough. Unless you want to compete with all of the general entrepreneur communities out there (and there are thousands of them), you’ve got to get much more specific about who it is you want to draw into your community.

Let me compare and contrast two examples to illustrate my point:

Example One: This Community.

At first glance, who is it for?

Entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Who leads it?

Carol Roth, a super-knowledgeable entrepreneur who cares deeply about supporting her community and delivering top-notch ideas, tips, strategies and tactics to help community members succeed.

Example Two: Chris Guillebeau’s Community at The Art of Non-Conformity.

At first glance, who is it for?

Entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Who leads it?

Chris Guillebeau, a super-knowledgeable entrepreneur who cares deeply about supporting his community and delivering top-notch ideas, tips, strategies and tactics to help community members succeed.

At first blush, these two communities look almost identical. There should be lots of overlap. But if you’ve spent any time at all in both places, you know that there is very little overlap and they attract a vastly different kind of entrepreneur.

Those who gather here seem to come from a more traditional corporate, professional services background, and are building more traditional types of businesses. Not everyone fits this description, of course, but the majority do. Carol’s more corporate approach to business-building feels really comfortable to this community.

Most of those who gather in Chris Guillebeau’s community come from non-corporate backgrounds and are building less-traditional businesses that are particularly focused on being mission-based and location independent. The community members are really comfortable with Chris’s unconventional approach to business building.

Neither community is superior. But each community is distinct. That clear, specific distinction attracts those entrepreneurs who are the very best fit. This clarity also is one of the primary reasons that both communities are such stand-out successes.

So, what if your clarity isn’t quite there yet? What if you need some direction on figuring out specifically who your community is for?

I’ve got three questions that will help you gain that insight quickly:

1)     What is the common interest(s) shared by your community members? At The Art of Non-Conformity, members clearly share an interest in extreme personal freedom. Chris responds to this interest by speaking directly to it in all of the content he offers up.

2)     What are the demographics of your most enthusiastic community members?  In Carol’s community, her fans are in the 35-50 years old range and have a corporate background. The content that Carol shares is designed with this these demographics in mind.

3)     When people arrive at your community for the first time, do they instantly know (via site name, tagline, site design, etc.) whether they belong? In both Carol’s and Chris’ case, the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” Each site is designed to instantly “speak” to their ideal community members.

Community is definitely a hot topic these days. As you are building (or growing) yours, make sure you remember to be very clear on who your community is for. It isn’t possible – or desirable – to be everything to everyone.

I’d love it if you would share your answers, your insights or your questions in the comments so that we can continue the conversation!

Article written by Sarah Robinson
Sarah Robinson is President and CEO of Sarah Robinson Co. She is a seasoned business coach, strategist, advisor and speaker who helps business owners set their companies apart from the pack. Sarah advises her international clients on how to build a thriving, successful community, how to increase social media effectiveness, and how to develop a remarkable online and offline business presence. Her expertise in building fiercely loyal communities was developed through many years of working with and providing coaching to entrepreneurs, small businesses, non-profits and corporations. This experience is the foundation for her forthcoming book, “Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities.”