Community is something that is innate in our culture. With the rise of the web and the increasing state of anonymity the web offers, we have grown further away from our natural propensity. Community used to be the neighborhood, where people would raise their children, live their lives and die in the same neighborhood where they were raised. Newspapers were necessary to bring us just a glimpse of the world outside the microcosm of the community. Now with a trend of job hopping and the transient nature of people today we tend to not have the roots in a given neighborhood, news isn't just available-we are bombarded by multiple mediums on a daily basis and the community has become a global phenomenon where no one knows everyone but we all know small aspects of everyone's life depending on personal interests and business priorities shared across a global scale.
How do we get to know this community when it tends to be overwhelming and how do we get to know customers without bombarding them with the same advertising we have all come to loathe? A community which we see at a coffee shop has become the atrophied muscle-we know it's integral to our nature but we're not quite sure how. When people go to a coffee shop where we all should socialize we use our laptops and cell phones that become a way to avoid social contact. Customers and people in general like to be seen as people not numbers and the state of our electronic age has calloused much of our reflex to talk with each other but the underlying need still persists. Customers need to know that the business isn't selling to them, people we connect with on the web need to know that there is a connection and their needs and interest mean more than a name on a database or information for future advertising.
The act of creating a community does not create a store front, it creates a place where people can connect with like people with similar interests that can together find a common need that might bring them to a storefront when the need arises. Brand awareness and mind share is what the purpose of the connection and not just the traditional sharing of marketing information as previously intended. An awareness grows that will slowly spread to others with similar interests-now we have a neighborhood that has grown to include strangers that might not even know us by our appearance but knows our interests and trusts our opinion. This trust is not something that can be created quickly nor faked through advertising campaigns that seek to capture the name and info and ignore the needs and interests of the customer.
I have recently created a website, what I have learned in the process is that first you send out the word about what is new and at first, friends will show interest but the interest is short term and quickly the response lingers to glances and an ocasional like. What creates the buzz is the constant flow of new information and activity but also through the engaging of multiple people who have the same interests.
What starts out with minor interest slowly becomes one person sending an article to another person or posting something on their website-the name and recognition of the information slowly markets itself.
A community can't be faked, it is as honest and natural as the neighborhood. We all desire to be connected and we all strive to be heard-todays' electronic neighborhood enlarges the scope of our community but the same rules of being genuine, honest and straightforward hasn't changed-no one likes to be sold or advertised to-we want to belong to a group that we can trust and feel our interests are a priority-welcome to the neighborhood.