Some of London’s leading community builders came together at Social Media Week London for an insightful conversation around community development, establishing a mission, and finding others with similar passions. The speakers discussed the science, strategies, and tools behind some of the the fastest growing digital communities, and also tried to define what the word “community” truly means. Today, where “Community Manager” is one of the most vague yet vital job titles there are, SMW London explored this topic and more. Creative Mornings led this discussion featuring four speakers. They were: Hannah Fitzgerald (Hyper Island), Emily Hinks (SheSays), Tak Lo (Techstars), and Victoria Stoyanova (Creative Mornings), pictured respectively.
What Does “Community” Truly Mean Today?
1. Tak: As an early start up, building a community is a cheap acquisition tool. It can be a great hiring pipeline too. Cultivate a community and the first employees that come from it – they believed in the company right from the start.
2. Victoria: “Mission” is a critical word when it comes to communities. Douglas Atkin, Global Director of Community at Airbnb, argues that a movement is a community mobilized to take action driven by a shared vision of how the world should be. A movement is just a community on the move. People who share characteristics and beliefs.
3. Tak: Techstars’ mission is to serve entrepreneurs (#GiveFirst). You can be more productive with a mission, but it’s hard to survive as a start up without a focus from the start.
4. Tak: Tactically, you can use events as a platform to communicate with your community, but conceptually, it is about whatever you can do to unite these people. Ask what is key with your community – what do they want?
5. Emily: “She Says” organizes different events every month, and those events change, evolve and help shape the community. We’ve started doing more workshops as there was a larger demand. We listen to what is said on social media as well as at the events to see what we can provide for our community.
6. Hannah: We have a toolbox at Hyper Island. We use it to build the community with current students. There is an element of self leadership – where do you sit within the community? What is your role?
7. Tak: You can’t hold on to the community too much, or else it will fly away. Authenticity needs to be present, and sometimes you have to do things that are not directly aligned with the business objectives. Look at the recent example of Reddit and the reaction to the dismissal of Victoria Taylor. Communities become very powerful – if you try to contain them, it can be difficult.
8. Emily: Once you have banded the people together with a shared purpose and passion, they are the ones that drive it. Step back and let it be what it is – you can’t force anything upon it.
9. Victoria: Do your homework, show up, and be present. You can’t really hack developing a community, you need to listen to the feedback you receive.
10. Emily: Give people the keys to drive. I set up the Manchester branch of “She Says” because I missed the London one. Collaborate, host events, and bring in people around you. Don’t give yourself too much to do – bring other people in who share your passion, and want to help out as well. Make a commitment once you start, and share that with other individuals for them to jump on board.
11. Tak: Scaling community is damn hard. Even U.S. to UK can be very different in terms of language, humor, or frames of reference. Citymapper does a good job of expanding communities – now they are starting a super hero community in each city so that you can find someone local. WeWork is successful with building communities – they spend three months in a community to understand it before taking significant action.
12. Emily: Communities give you a sense of belonging. You chose to go and be part of that group, so give them a reason to continue interacting and be there. With the Alumni program at Hyper Island, we want to leave people with a glow, whether that’s energized from an event or newsletter demonstrating that Hyper Island is truly making a difference.
13. Emily: A community is a shared space just for you. Not your workplace, not your friends, and not your family. It’s a beautifully selfish thing. Communities are either physical or online, and serve as a space for interacting with likeminded people about something you are passionate about.