Definition of a community straight from Google.
People have time and time again asked me how to grow a following, build a community and how to network with those in a given industry. Truthfully, I am both humbled and bewildered that people would seek my advice in this category; however, I have come to realize that there is a level of “success” I have achieved over the years and the best rewards I have received are genuine friends and good life experience. I found myself responding with the same answers, so I wanted to consolidate them here. Please also keep in mind that while I try to be as helpful as possible, these concepts may not work for everyone. They are my own personal experiences and what work best for me. Second note, I primarily work within the video games/video production industry.
How do you use social media effectively? Short and simple of it is to just use it. If an application is widely used, you have to teach yourself how to utilize it regardless of how you feel about the interface or the overall process of the platform. You may like Twitter more than Snapchat, but both are “in” so if you want to reach a wide audience, then buck up and get to learning. You’ll find out what engages people and what drives them away. No matter what social media platform you decide to start out with, I suggest following the most popular profiles, the people who are juggernauts in that given audience. What do they produce? How do they interact with people? What’s makes them attractive to their followers/subscribers? When I say popular accounts, I don’t mean the ones that can just say “hi” and have that post spread like wildfire. I mean the ones that actually produce content in some form. You want to study people who are engaging.
Twitter works best for me as it’s a very convenient tool to use for keeping tabs on friends and people and companies that interest me. I use it as a source of not only maintaining my personal relationships but also a resource for networking and keeping up with industry news. I enjoy interacting with people whether or not they know me. Whatever I reply to, I try to ensure that it contains a certain level of quality to it as I want to bring value to the conversation. Maybe I felt like complimenting someone on their food photo or recent career achievement, maybe I wanted to offer some insight or somehow uplift a person’s spirits because they needed it. Whatever my response would be, I always aim for my words having purpose. Understand that how you respond to a company account or someone you don’t know should differ from how you interact with friends and family. That is something you should never forget.
When people say I don’t have the time to do all that. Make some. Find a balance in your calendar. One aspect of growing your community shouldn’t be your entire focus. Spread out. Example, you may be a pro at tweeting, but you cannot expect to build a following if you don’t want to invest in any others. Networking is hard and it takes time, but you will be surprised with what you learn not only about companies and industries you are interested in, but also things about yourself. If you go out into the unknown and interact with people, you will gain a lot of varied social interaction experience. You will make some mistakes, but you cannot let that hover over you for the rest of your life.
A little secret from me, I never view people as numbers or objects even if they see me that way. Bottom line in this scenario is that you learn about which people/companies you would rather stay away from as opposed to invest time in. A lot of people take this perception personally. Why? If someone openly showed their hand and it’s not to your liking, they just did you a huge favor. Think about it as a personal relationship. If your significant other revealed that you were nothing more than an object to them, you wouldn’t stay, right? Move on and gravitate toward people who would support and encourage you. That’s what I do. I want to be around people who believe in me, not drag me down. But in order to find those people, you have to do some searching. So make time to find your community. Growing an audience is part doing what you love and people finding you and part you going out and telling them that you exist.
One thing I’ve started doing is going through Twitch and finding streamers who are entertaining and interact with their chat. It’s how I would want to treat my Twitch channel, so those are the people I want to support whenever they go live. Turns out, a few of them stop by in my channel every now and then as well. Win-win.
Be genuine. People can pick up when you are not being truthful or sincere. It may not be immediate, but your actions, your words and how you present yourself make an impact on a lot of people regardless if you are in the spotlight. People know people and people talk to those people. Your reputation starts as soon as you make that first post or say that first word.
Branding. I asked people what reminded them of me and my friend, Don, said geeky fried rice. I rolled with it and it’s been my personal brand since then. My friend over at Ruby Glue Design developed the logo and I worked on how I wanted to present myself. Ultimately, I want to create a place where geeky and nerdy is accepted and required. In my younger years, my geeky hobbies were looked down upon and I was teased constantly for them, but as I’ve grown to accept myself and my passions, I decided that I want to create and provide sanctuary to those who just want to be themselves. It doesn’t matter if you love comic books or video games only or if you just love movies or cosplay…you have something in your life that you love, and I want to help you embrace and celebrate that.
Accept that you don’t know everything. There are tons of people out there who are more experienced and knowledgeable than you. Look up to them and learn from them, even more so if you don’t see eye to eye on everything (I am serious about that). You need people who can make you see outside YOUR box. Even if you have negative experiences with people in the same field, the most important thing is that you learn something from them. There are mentors everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they are all the same type of personality. Some are friendly, and some are tough and it’s good if you run into a variety of them. It’s the best way to grow. Keeping an open mind when you want to show that you are unwavering in what you do is great, but remember, there is a time and place to be confident and a time and a place to be humble.
Support others who are in the same boat as you. This ties into the making time to network point. Empathy is your best friend here. On your journey to building your community, you will find many others who are on the same path as you. You may not necessarily be side by side on this adventure, but your overall destination is the same. You will go through the same struggles and obstacles and you will find what your strengths and weaknesses are. You will also surprisingly learn these things of your peers. Often times, you will bounce ideas off of each other, collaborate together and you may even be in a position of offering a second opinion or advice to a comrade. I have witnessed people unintentionally shoot their peers down before any constructive criticism can be mentioned and it’s pretty brutal to watch. Don’t agree with how someone is executing a project? There’s many different ways to express that and saying “why bother? That’s f***ing stupid” or “you might as well give up right now” is not the best approach. More than anything, I want to not only build my own community, but I want to help others do so with theirs. If I am not 100% on board with a friend’s idea, I will offer both constructive feedback and a different approach that they can consider in the future. Whether or not they take that advice doesn’t affect me, but the ways in which I offer my support matter a great deal to them.
Expectations. Stuff doesn’t happen overnight. You have to continually work to maintain your relationships, your connections, your brand, how you present yourself and of course, you have to just keep putting content out there. Keep moving forward. If you want this to happen, then don’t stop because you ran into a few obstacles. Of course you’re going to run into walls. Nothing worth having has ever been easy to acquire.
I never thought I would be here posting blogs, creating YouTube videos, making Vines, livestreaming video games and building a community of my own. My past self would never believe it. But I’ve found my niche and I don’t plan on stopping.