As I sat on a flight to Canton, Ohio, to speak to an Advertising Federation chapter, I tweeted, chatted on Facebook chat and answered emails. I wouldn't be do any of those things if I didn’t have a community of followers/friends or potential/existing sponsors to have a conversation with. I also wouldn't have the chance to do public speaking engagements without a community that's supported my business and helped create new opportunities. Basically, I'd be nothing without my community.
So how have I built this awesome community? It only takes five words:
- Conversation. The first and most important "C" in my mind is having a conversation with potential community members. The majority of us aren't celebrities; we won't be featured on prominent news outlets on a regular basis and won’t have any opportunities to have a community of fans/followers/friends fall into our laps. Spark conversations with people and exhaust the heck out of your existing network. People tend to forget that they're already connected to people who are connected to other people. Engage in conversation with them, stay tuned in to their lives and go out of your way to help anyone you can. To find brand new conversations, Twitter Search is probably one of the most powerful FREE tools you could ever have at your disposal.
- Content. What kind of content are you putting out into the world to keep your community interested, and to have new people find you? It's not like you need to make critically acclaimed movies, or even short YouTube videos, but you should be sharing photos of things that might interest/entertain people, share your insight into the world and join all kinds of conversations. Facebook is built around sharing content, whether it's a Status, Photo, Link or Location. All of these things are pieces of content that you can create daily. Don’t overdo it, but don’t sell yourself short either.
- Context. Everyone knows the saying "content is king," but there's a shift in thinking in social media and it's to remember how important context is. You can churn out content all day long, but if it doesn't resonate with the people viewing/reading it, why do they care? Being contextual is easy if you ask your friends/fans/followers/customers what it is they like. Take the time to learn things about your community and stay contextual.
- Creativity. When I thought of the idea of IWearYourShirt, it wasn't because I saw someone else do something similar; I thought of something unique. Being creative doesn't come naturally to everyone, but the easiest way to make creativity happen is to put yourself in situations you wouldn't normally put yourself in, and be open to trying things. You'd be surprised at how creative you can be when you aren't doing the same things over and over again...how that can attract new friends/fans (and press!).
- Commotion. Shake things up! Leave your comfort zone: travel to places you've never been (even if it's just a weekend getaway); go to different social events and actually hang out with people in person. Join a local group, church, nonprofit, etc. Have your company’s logo built out of 3,000 Lincoln Logs; take an advertisement out in a local paper and put nothing but a picture of your face...okay, maybe those last two aren't great ideas, but by causing a commotion and stirring things up, you'll get people’s very valuable attention.
Jason Sadler is the head of IWearYourShirt.com, had Fox Business call him the "Entrepreneur of the Century," and does private social media consulting and public speaking. He is also a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business's development and growth.