I’m just back from a wonderful vacation with my family where I spent a week on a boat cruising to the tropics. While I was away, I received a wonderful, positive lesson in community building and I thought I’d share it with you today.
The question I’m asked the most about starting an online community from scratch, or even taking on an existing community, is how to get started. I’ve always maintained that there’s no secret formula. All communities are different, they have different personalities and different purposes, but this tip I’m going to give you works for each one of them.
For me, your first step towards building community should always be to say, “hi!”
An important lesson in community building
I thought about this while I was away, because I saw it in action.
I woke up several mornings specifically to get a workout in. I’m kind of afraid of heights, so I stayed away from Deck 13 and the jogging track on top of the ship, and instead chose to fast walk a few miles on the laid back Promenade deck. I wasn’t the only one.
As I started walking, it occurred to me that I might be going in the wrong direction. All the other walkers were walking towards me, shouldn’t I be following the pack? That feeling was short lived as I realized I was walking in exactly the right direction because it enabled me to say hello to everyone who was walking by. After a couple of laps, I started thinking about how each lap in this morning walk related to community building.
Check it out:
- Lap 1: Say “hi” to everyone who walks past.
- Lap 2: Smile at all you pass.
- Lap 3: Exchange amusing quip as you walk by different people.
- Lap 4: Slow down to chit chat a bit more
- Lap 5: Conversation is infectious. Everyone wants to get in on it.
- Lap 6: Everyone is walking in the same direction.
- Lap 8: Everyone agrees to meeting at the same time the next morning.
A walking community is born.
On the second day of my cruise, I noticed that I was talking to and chatting with people in the buffet, restaurants, at the pool, and just hanging out on the deck. When my son asked me how I knew so many people already I told him it was because I said “hi” on my morning walk.
My community building exercise isn’t cruise ship exclusive. No one ever wants to be the first person up to dance. Saying “hi” will lead to comments, shares, tweets and, yes, trust. Don’t wait for others to take that first step.