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Weekly 3: How to build a community

Summary: Solve for quality instead of quantity. Find your tribe. Build more than an audience. (~4 min

Idea Journal Weekly 3

November 4 · Issue #59 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Solve for quality instead of quantity. Find your tribe. Build more than an audience. (~4 min read)
Note: Idea #2 is taken from a previous issue, and we’ve included it here because it fits well with this issue’s theme: how to build a community.

#1. How many "true fans" do you have?
Technology expert Kevin Kelly writes on his blog that most creators only need 1,000 true fans to be successful.
Many artists and entrepreneurs chase clicks, hits, and media mentions “trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum bestseller hits, blockbusters, and celebrity status.”
But a better strategy is to develop stronger relationships with the people who really care. For Kelly, the focus should be on quality over quantity.
A true fan will drive 200 miles to watch you perform; they’ll buy the hardcover, paperback, and audio versions of your book; they’ll test the beta version of your app and tell their friends; they’ll buy your latest painting sight unseen.
You need to meet 2 criteria to make the math of 1,000 true fans work:
  1. Each year, you need to create enough so that you make, on average, $100 profit from each true fan.
  2. Your relationship with your true fans must be direct, so that you can earn the $100 from them without involving an intermediary like a publisher, studio, or retailer.
If you meet the above criteria, you can make $100,000 each year, which is a good living for most people.
The 1,000 true fans formula isn’t absolute, and should be adjusted for each person.
For example, if you can only earn $50 from each true fan then you need 2,000 of them; if you are able to earn $200 from each true fan, then you only need 500. Or maybe you can survive on $75,000 per year.
The point is that you probably need fewer people than you think to successfully pursue your craft, and when you’re starting out this can make the process more encouraging and realistic.
#2. Growth is not the only option for the tribe you lead.
Marketing guru Seth Godin writes in his book Tribes that a tribe is a group of people who have a shared interest, a way to communicate with one another, and a connection to the leader.
Godin argues that as a leader, you have 3 tactics you can use to increase your tribe’s effectiveness:
  1. Transform the shared interest into a clear goal and a desire for change.
  2. Provide tools to help tribe members to tighten their communications (e.g., leader to tribe, tribe to leader, tribe member to tribe member, and tribe member to outsider).
  3. Use the tribe’s size and influence to grow and gain new members.
As Godin points out, most leaders focus only on tactic #3 – but bigger is not always better.
For example, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has millions of members, but it arguably has much less impact on the world than the 2,000 people who attend the TED Conference each year: “One is about big and the other is about change.”
Every action you take as a leader can affect these 3 tactics, and the challenge is to figure out which one to maximize.
#3. Principles for building an engaged community.
A community is different than an audience: members of a community take a more active role in shaping the group experience.
In a Twitter thread, Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover and community-building expert David Spinks suggest the following 6 principles for bringing together a group of people who are engaged, and not merely present:
  1. Be consistent: keep creating even if no one responds.
  2. Experiment: don’t stagnate, try new things.
  3. Practice humility: it’s not about you personally, it’s about the group.
  4. Be transparent: be honest and admit mistakes.
  5. Have energy: keep it high and positive.
  6. Be authentic: people gravitate towards those who have true passion – it’s infectious.
Quote of the Week
“A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.”
- Writer Henrik Ibsen in his play An Enemy of the People
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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