You're Only As Good As Your Community

Simply the best. Better than all the rest.

As a business, as a blogger, as an individual – how do you differentiate yourself from the rest. There are a million people blogging about Social Media ROI – why should you read what I have to say? There are hundreds of tasty brews out there for you to enjoy, why should you drink Fat Tire? (shameless plug for my favorite beer). It’s not about being the best – New Belgium Brewing Co. will probably never be a household name like Budweiser, Coors, and Miller – but they get it. They’re fully aware that it’s not about head to head competition, it’s about specializing, connecting, and giving consumers a unique (beer drinking) experience.

It’s all about perception – and as with pretty much everything, you get what you give. It comes down to Community. A brand your promoting, a blog your authoring, a product your selling – it’s only as good as your community. The more ‘they care’ – the more success you will surely see. Yes, it’s your job to engage and influence the community perception, but it’s up to the general public to determine value. Those that are the best at what they do focus on establishing (and nurturing) relationships within their communities. But they also promote themselves in a way that makes you and I fall in love with who they are and absorb anything and everything they throw our way. Adding real value and leaving people hungry for more.

Is it possible to have one’s cake and eat it too? Can one person ‘do it all’? Let’s take a look at the two (general) perspectives and paths to success:

The ‘Nice guys finish last’ mindset

Many companies and individuals have very limited involvement with their community. But while they may lack the commitment to one-on-one connections  they’re still able to realize great success through their outstanding self-promotion. Think Dan Schwabel, Penelope Trunk, even Seth Godin. All very well respected and extremely successful because of their outstanding efforts put toward personal branding. Dan Schwabel is a mastermind in the art of personal branding, (not-so) shamelessly plugging himself, his blog, and his book all over the web. While there is nothing wrong with the approach these folks are taking (hell, I am a regular at each one of the aforementioned authors blogs) – A very select few see success in this approach. Especially for people who are just entering the ‘market’ – building a solid foundation of passionate consumers/readers/etc. is priority number one.

The ‘What’s wrong with kissing a little ass?’ approach

Dave Fleet, a relatively well known social media guru, hits the nail right on the head with his article posted earlier this week. There are many out there who prescribe to the notion that ‘what goes around comes around‘. These folks are believers in ‘you get what you give‘ and are constantly involved with their communities, engaging in discussion, providing additional value to their readers, and actively interacting with the so called ‘little people’ (that would be you and me). Everyone starts here – but very few businesses and individuals are able to maintain that connection with their fans once they ‘make it big’ so to speak.

If you haven’t noticed, I prescribe to this methodology and way of thinking. I asked many of you over the past week what YOU thought was the strong point of my writing and this blog, something that differentiates me from the rest and keeps you coming back – and the response was unanimous: It’s the dedication I have for my community. I make an effort to respond to (almost) every single comment that is left here. I email individuals personally when they have really provided some added value to a discussion, and those of you who email me from time to time know that I respond to everything I get sent my way. I’m active on various social media networks, I get involved in other blogging discussions around the web.  In short, I make time for all of you because I AM YOU. I’m just a regular guy, down in the trenches. I may post on some pretty lofty topics, but I’m no expert. I’m simply living my life, sharing my perspective on the world as I go. There is just as much (if not more) value in the comments shared by all of you as there is in the post(s) themselves.

Yes, I know we’re comparing Matt Cheuvront to the Chris Brogan’s and Dan Schawbel’s of the blogging world. I’m fully aware that I am but a small fish in this huge social media pond – but I’m making a name for myself because I give a damn. Part of the reason I do what I do is because I can. I have the time, and I make the most of it. I want everyone who comes through here to feel like their thoughts and opinions are really being heard. As someone who remains active in various blogging communities out there – I understand and appreciate the value in taking 10 minutes out of your day to read (and comment) on a blog post. I understand that without an active community, a blog is a pretty dull place. I can be the most brilliant writer on the web, but if no one is around to read it, if no one cares, if it isn’t sparking some discussion, what’s the point?

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

As strong as my dedication is to promoting an involved and engaging community within the walls of Life Without Pants. I’m spending just as much time out there getting involved on your blogs and promoting my own ‘personal brand’.  Those who sit and wait for everyone to come to them will ultimately never be as successful as those who are out there actively promoting themselves; saying “Here I am, this is why I’m awesome!” It’s up to you to get out there and plant the seeds. Planting seeds means getting involved in other communities, providing value to others, reaching out and going above and beyond what people expect from you. By enhancing your brand perception and image, you’ll get people talking. Those seeds will grow into beautiful promotional tools (people) who will sing your praises and encourage others to buy into what you’re ‘selling’. To quote Dave Fleet:

“As an individual, doing something as a hobby, community is absolutely enough. In fact, it may be the sole end goal for hobbyists and that’s wonderful. For companies, however, you can’t only give back. You need to withdraw push for yourself, too. Community alone doesn’t pay the bills. Revenue and growth does.”

A common theme you’ll see sprinkled throughout the blog that relates to both my personal and professional philosophy is the importance in laying a solid foundation based on relationships. It seems obvious but you would be surprised at how many people don’t get that. Those who do,  those who make the time for others, those who ‘care’ – these are the businesses and individuals we respect, admire, and look up to.

Understanding the value of relationship building is crucial, but that’s the easy part. The hard part, and the concept that I have to continue working on myself – is getting myself out there. The ‘self promotion’ piece – and balancing the fine line between being confident vs. being self-centered. The latter is annoying and will undoubtedly turn people off while the former will let people know that you’re awesome and deserve to be recognized.

I challenge all of you to ‘get back to basics’ – reach out to some of your readers and get to know them. Follow up on some warm leads for potential clients and customers. Invest the time in others and they’ll be happy to return the favor.

What do you think? What’s more important: Promoting yourself or your community?

About Matt Cheuvront

I empower folks to do the work they want to do and live the life they want to live. I also watch entirely too much Saved by the Bell, run marathons, and drink plenty of craft beer. Check out the work my company is doing at Proof Branding.