I was in a meeting recently where the head of business development at a well-funded startup proudly proclaimed her creative community was growing by 7,000 members per month. But when I visited the website, I didn’t see a community. All I saw was an audience.
While the company had a power-packed board of advisors, and impressive traction, it had no soul. Without that ephemeral, but all-important community differentiator, all the money in the world won’t save them from being a zombie startup in six months or less.
As a startup you need an audience and a community, but ultimately your community will propel you to long-term success.
Community means engagement, conversation and evolution. Members of a community participate for the benefit of others. A conference is an instant community. Conference attendees all have personal self-interest, but the more they share, the more they stand to gain from one another. A lecture hall is where you go to find an audience.
An audience consumes passively. Information flows in one direction. While students may be the same corpus, they have little impact over the content or the dynamics of the information presented to them. Being a member of the audience is a selfish act. In an audience people take what they need and leave. Participants in a true community contribute more than they receive.
Why startups need communities
In an era when knowledge was scarce, and trapped in books, lectures were the most efficient way to spread information. Today information is abundant, but expertise and mastery are in short supply. In a community setting the most valuable information spreads organically, and experts are necessary to filter through everything that is out there.
Startups need an audience and a community. You need numbers to grow, and not everyone who is interested in your product needs to or cares to be part of the conversation. Ultimately your sustained growth will depend upon a community of people who feel it is in their best interest for you to succeed and prosper. Whether this provides them with social capital, or more tangible benefits is up to individual.
Help grow the PR Tips For Startups community
I’ll admit that I want PR Tips For Startups to be a community. While I’m extremely proud of the audience (visitors from 125 countries during the past 30 days), I feel like I’ve so-far failed to ignite the community I know is possible. Nothing is more powerful than when founders help other founders solve their problems, and access the resources they need to take it to the next level.
It’s wonderful that people find value in the information and observations I share, but I’m just one person. Collectively (and individually), you know a whole lot more.
So I’ll leave you with a challenge; what can be done to grow PR Tips For Startups into a more vibrant, collaborative and educational community over the next 30 days? What steps can be taken, and what are you willing to contribute? Maybe you’re our first community manager. If so, this is your invitation to step up.
If you’ve read this far, it’s because you value the investment of time and energy that has gotten this blog and podcast to this point. Now help us grow as a community and empower more entrepreneurs.
Drop your comments below, or feel free to email me: chikodi [at] prtipsforstartups.com, and include “community” in the subject line.
I thank you for your support, your contributions and the work you do every day to make the world a better place.
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