“For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.” – Millard Fuller
Imagine for a moment you are hosting a fabulous party at your place and you invite everyone in your list of contacts that you’ve accumulated over the past few months from networking.
Fast-forward and it’s the night of the party, the music is playing, the food is out, drinks are chilled and people start arriving. But there’s just one problem: nobody who’s coming knows each other, the only person they know is you and they are all very different people with different values and beliefs.
And so as each individual arrives, they all gather around you hoping for your attention. So being the great host that you are, you set about talking to as many people 1:1 as possible. They are your guests, after all and they clearly came to see you…better help them have a good time! By the end of the night you are completely exhausted and vow never to host another party again! ‘Online connecting is much more efficient,’ you decide.
The cost of being seen as the ‘guru’
This is the trap we see so many community builders, team leaders, businesses with followings, community managers, and entrepreneurs fall into: completely neglecting to spend time creating connections within their communities and getting burnt out being the main point of contact.
Why? Because you want to be seen as the ‘guru’, the ‘expert’, the ‘thought-leader’ and heaven-forbid you should be seen as not having it all worked out!
But there is a great cost associated with allowing that fear of being ‘found out’ run the show, including:
- Disallowing a deeper level of sustainable 1:1 connection between you and your community members/team.
- It completely shuts down the space of potential connection between your followers.
- It inhibits the ability to start to tap into the collective brain power and potential of the entire group.
- It inhibits community members’ ability to grow personally and professionally as you keep them in their silos.
- It shuts down potential collaborations between members.
- It sends you, as the leader, in the direction of leadership fatigue and burnout.
- You start to feel like your community is a burden and the fun factor plummets!
- It prevents the potential deeper connection you can have with each community member.
So how do we start to let go of control, get real, and allow our community to connect not just with us, but with each other? How do we embrace the fact that we may, in fact, not be needed for every communication and interaction without our group or business?
And what work do we need to have done in order to make connection between our community members even possible in the first place?
Today we are going to cover off on:
- The foundational work that must get done to set the scene for this kind of hyper-engagement
- What we mean by ‘hyper-engagement’
- Why creating hyper-engagement is not a linear process
- 3 hands-on tips to start creating hyper-engagement today
And here is where you get to design your journey! How would you like to consume the rest of this post (all have essentially the same information)?
Option #1 – Audio – Click here to listen (audio only)
Option #2 – Visual – Click here to watch (audio + video)
Option #3 – Written – Continue reading on if you prefer a written format
Are you willing to do the work that almost no-one does?
The world today is incredibly fast-paced and it can be so easy to feel like we are falling behind, not keeping up and that we ‘should’ be further along with the size of our community, product/service sales, social media engagement, marketing plans, speaking engagements, etc. etc.
But all too often we skip some of the most crucial steps along the way. Many in this online world, in an attempt to keep up, decide they had better get to selling some sh*t and creating leverage and boosting conversion rates, before taking a step back to access the landscape.
So what do we mean ‘access the landscape’? It means you can answer the following questions with ease:
- Who is your ideal community member? How old are they? What are their interests? What are their greatest frustrations? Do they have a family? What drives them crazy? Where have they been before they found you? What are their aspirations?
- What is your movement attracted to/repelled by? What’s your overall mission? What are you, as a collective, raging against? What is the new future that together you’d like to create?
- What beliefs and values does your community stand behind? Can you easily rattle off the values and beliefs of your collective? Are they written down somewhere? Do they come across easily in your messaging?
- Where are the boundaries of your community and offerings? Where do you draw the line? Where does your community start and end? At what point in someone’s journey do you serve them? At what point do they move on or become mentors? What kind of person is NOT for your community?
Because without having spent the time to access your unique landscape, it will be impossible to magnetize your ideal community to you. And without the community that’s the right fit for you it will be impossible to create connections within (let alone between you and them).
True story: We actually locked ourselves in an apartment in New York for 2 days to smash out this work a few years back – as massive action takers & results-driven women, we did not want to do it, and yet looking back it’s some of the most important time we spent together simply brainstorming and writing. And over the next 1-2 years we kept on refining and refining until we got it as close to ‘right’ as possible.
So now assuming that you’ve done (or plan to do) this important work, we can dive into what we actually mean by ‘hyper-engagement’, why it’s important, and the steps we believe you can take today to start cultivating that in your own movement.
What is a hyper-engaged community?
Level 1 – Community
- A group of people joined together with a common purpose or belief (church groups, family, online memberships, gyms, etc.)
- One leader/business owner and a ‘list’ or people/email addresses
- One-way communication from leader but no real set up channels for followers to communicate back
- Pyramid-like structure
Level 2 – Engaged Community
- Leader who is conveying a particular message
- A bunch of followers or ‘list’ of people
- Communication is happening between the leader and the followers.
- Two-way communication
- Pyramid-like structure
Level 3 – Hyper-Engaged Community
- Where your community/followers start to speak to each other = hyper-engagement
- You are available to your community and create opportunities for them to connect with you LIVE
- Your community members support other community members
- As the leader your life becomes a lot easier as your ‘heavy lifting’ reduces
- You start to tap into brainpower of entire community
- More a flat level structure and less (or no) ‘levels’
So then the question becomes: What sort of community do you currently have? And most importantly: what kind of community do you want?
And if the answer is ‘A hyper-engaged one!’ then how do you actually start to create hyper-engagement among your followers?
The first steps in creating hyper-engagement between your following
Although we have listed these as ‘steps’, creating engagement is actually not a linear process and you will find yourself cycling back and forth and in between these steps. Simply notice which step feels right for where you and your community are at right now…
Step 1: Stop assuming, start engaging
As we mentioned above, as leaders we think we have to have it all worked out, that we need to be seen as the ‘guru’. But all this does is create a barrier between you and your following. And the longer you hide away behind your laptop, the harder it gets to get vulnerable and ask important questions.
Get curious – Who is in your following? What are their biggest frustrations? What are they dealing with? Let go of the need to sprout your own message and get interested in others.
Some actions you could take:
- Reach out to 3-5 people you know well in your community and ask for 15mins of their time. Pose 3-5 questions: What is your biggest frustration right now? What is your greatest challenge? What would your ideal life or solution look like? What would you say is holding you back from taking action/solving the problem? Where are you most stuck right now? How have you tried to get unstuck?
- Post a comment (or even better record a short video) in your Facebook group, sharing that you are getting vulnerable, admitting you don’t know it all and you want to know what their biggest challenge is right now specifically relating to xyz.
- Send a short 3-5 question survey to your subscribers with similar questions and contact those who reply to thank them/ask for a follow-up interview/call
- Host an in-person meetup for your tribe
- Host a virtual ‘in-person’ hangout for your community.
Step 2: Know yourself, be real & drop the B.S.
We have been brought up in a world to be the ‘best’ – except what we really need to be is not this fuzzy ideal of perfection, but instead the best version of us.
When we wrote an article for Foundr Magazine blog, the large majority of the comments mentioned that we are the ‘real deal’. Which actually got us pretty mad! If it stands out so much that we are ‘real’, then why the hell aren’t there more people out there being the ‘real deal’? Why isn’t it just normal to be ‘real’?
Well, it’s scary to show up and be yourself and be vulnerable. It’s scary to show your imperfections. And as a society we give people a smack on the hand for getting things wrong, we even shame them. It happens in family, school, community groups and in business every single day. And so we go about trying to mould ourselves into someone we think we should be. Someone that will be accepted and fit in.
But we know, thanks to Brene Brown, that vulnerability is the key to connecting with other people. And we also know it can take an immense amount of courage. Because what builds trust is being willing to own up to your mistakes and admit that you don’t know it all – and that can be a scary place to stand (at least at first).
And in terms of community building, if you are being a fake version of you because you think that’s what your community wants, this is where it starts to get super hard. Why? Because you will start to magnetize to you people who are not the right fit for your community. You might even end up with a group of people that you don’t even like! And perhaps your energy is being completely sucked out of you because of it. But you see, the buck stops with you and the important question becomes: Who are you being to attract those people in the first place?
Some actions you could take:
- As you take action in your business/community/life ask yourself: Does this feel/sound right for me? Is this the right step for me or does it feel kind of ‘off’?
- Think about those currently in your community: do they energize you or do they suck the life out of you? Who are you being to attract your community in?
- Ask some (very) trusted community members: How would you describe me as a leader? What do you think my top values would be?
Step 3: Create safety for your community
We seem to be in such a huge rush to create massive lists of people and followers and the online world wastes no time capitalizing on our impatience. But a huge influx of numbers makes it very difficult to build trust or create an experience of safety because trust within your following generally starts small and slowly. Like growing sustainable food, organic growth must be nurtured, requires human input, and fundamentally you must take care of the soil first, before planting a whole heap of seeds.
But once you’ve done the groundwork, trust can actually generate very quickly given the right circumstances. What do we mean by the right circumstances? Safe spaces.
So what is a safe space and how do we create it? A safe space is basically a trust or bond between two people or within a collective. So as soon as trust doesn’t exist, the space no longer exists. And the fastest way to create that ‘space’ and make someone feel safe are:
- Let them be seen and heard: One of the most powerful ways to have others feel seen and heard (and essentially validated) is by truly listening to the other person. We often think as the leader we need to do all the talking, prove how amazing and successful we are, but the best way to build trust is by making your interactions with community members largely about them. Listen intently and ask follow up or engaging questions keeping the focus on them. It actually requires less work of you, you obtain valuable information about your community member, and you get to create a deeper connection with them.
- Come without judgement – releasing self-judgement first, and then releasing judgement of others – allows other to be vulnerable
- Provide gathering locations – also consider where you can create spaces either online or in person where your community can huddle together. Perhaps a private Facebook group? An online forum? An in-person meetup? Be sure to create guidelines for this space – what’s ok/not ok, what the purpose of the space is etc.
We hope that this helps you get into momentum in creating hyper-engagement among your followers. We truly believe and have experienced it is the best way to build a movement or community that is truly sustainable for the long-term.