12 steps to building a strong community
Written by Amanda Rose
It’s easy to build — or enjoy the benefits of — a community when things are going well. But it’s when things are going badly that genuinely strong leaders show what they’re made of.
Truly leading, helping and growing a community becomes crucial in times of distress and uncertainty.
Those who build and bind during these tough times will develop a network and loyalty that the good times just cannot deliver.
It is when people are at their lowest, most frightened and vulnerable that the need for community is at its highest. And if you are running, or in charge of, such a community, it is also the hardest — but in many ways the most rewarding.
If your community is hurting right now due to the COVID-19 crisis, double down on your efforts, because now is the time to invest, encourage and unite more than ever. And here’s how.
This should be obvious; however, it is especially important — as people who are vulnerable or have endured hard times are more susceptible to feeling judged or shame. Make sure your language is positive and you are welcoming (this also relates to moderating, which we discuss later).
Communicate regularly via a main platform
If you have multiple social media accounts, keep them all focused on practical and positive information, but have one source where your community can access help and information — and communicate with each other.
It is absolutely crucial you are assiduously moderating the comments and interaction to ensure the most vulnerable are looked after. I personally have pre-approval on posts and read every single comment across all my platforms to gauge the mood and to keep our atmosphere positive and helpful.
Help them focus on the future
Allow people to express angst, but keep the focus firmly on a stronger future.Can you run Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn live sessions that are practical and fun to keep your community focused on their purpose, their potential and help them prepare for the future? I recommend asking community members to help you with this… it will build connectivity and give a sense of ownership by community members.
Educate and motivate
What free resources can you share to your community via your many channels? Check through it first thoroughly so you know it is quality content. Even secure some content by business partners or pay for some quality content to be available free to your community.
Don’t sell during hard times
This is a very important point. When people are trying to survive and then rebuild their business or lives, you should be protecting them instead of taking advantage of them. Don’t sell to them. Suck it up and give, give, give. What you sow you will reap.
Recruit trusted help
Hand-pick people from within your community to help with the load. This will give you a range of perspectives and some needed help to make sure you are not dropping the ball — while also looking after yourself too.
Involve your community
This could be something simple as them joining into a Facebook live session or spreading the word about something. But get your community involved in one way or another, no matter how small — it all helps. We have been sending out car decals to our community so they have a sense of belonging during difficult times.
Provide joy daily
This could be a funny meme, inspirational quote or a feel good (real-life) story. I believe we need to face reality, however, people will often gravitate to things that help them feel happier or calmer.
Connect in person
There’s nothing more powerful than people meeting together over a bite to eat. In our current environment we are all craving physical connection, so the second we are legally and safely able to, throw a community connectivity party or meet up and keep them going.
If you are building or rebuilding a community during or after a difficult time, don’t stop once you feel things are back to normal. Keep the momentum, and keep providing opportunities for your community to not only survive but thrive.
You can’t avoid the one important factor that provides the foundation for all the above strategies. You need time to build any community; and you need a LOT of time if you are rebuilding a community that has been impacted by natural disasters or financial hardship.