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Weekly 3: How to build your community

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Idea Journal Weekly 3

September 5 · Issue #207 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.


Summary: A community is different than an audience. A community’s members have a more active posture. This issue explores three ideas to help you build your community.
(~3 min read)

#1. 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.
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.
#2. 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.
#3. What's your scene, and who's in it?
One way to view networking is as an effort to build a series of one-on-one, mutually-beneficial relationships.
From another perspective, it’s the process of building a network of people around yourself and your interests, so that ultimately the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Author and entrepreneur James Altucher writes in a blog post that your ability to be happy and successful stems entirely from the quality of people you surround yourself with: “You are your scene.”
In the above infographic, he recommends 6 steps for creating and building your scene.
An effective scene is more than just a group of people with shared interests – each person in the scene builds the others up, shares their work, and makes introductions that help increase each member’s chances of success.
Here are some examples of successful scenes:
  • Writers William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, despite having different styles, helped to publish each other’s work and launched the Beat Generation, one of the most influential artistic movements of its time.
  • Comedians Louis C.K., Larry David, Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld “all worked together in no-name clubs for years, each opening for the other over and over again, until they broke out one by one and pulled their talented friends along with them.”
  • The PayPal Mafia is a group of former PayPal employees who went on to create or become major investors in some of the most successful companies in Silicon Valley, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Palantir, Tesla, and Yelp.
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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