Earlier this week, the Norby crew hopped on Clubhouse with the team over at The Future Party along with some special guests to talk community building, tech, and the overlap between the two. Not to sound like a broken record here, but community is truly more important than ever these days. Creating a sense of community within your business can be invaluable in so many ways. How do you establish and build upon that while leveraging the tools that tech has provided you with? Read on to hear some key insights from people who have been there, done that, and learned a lot along the way.
We all recognize that social media is one of the most accessible and convenient tools to utilize when building community. While it can be a very powerful tool, it often walks a thin line when it comes to being an ethical and responsible mechanism to grow and scale a business. Getting caught up in the likes, comments, engagement, and other numerical stats that come along with social media is very easy to do. Most social media users at one point or another have been consumed by the features that these platforms put in place, sometimes to a point where it can be all-consuming. It’s a competitive world out there, and the standards of “success” that social media has created can be dangerous. In order to really build and nurture a community, letting go of the pressure of these measures of success is essential. Community is rooted in human connection, after all, right? Keeping this in mind is vital to successful community building. Alex Wolf commented.
“What I really care about is honing in on human nature versus the interface that we are using. When I started my first company, it was super successful on Instagram and all of the questions I would get were ‘How did you grow this following?’ The conversation was so much about things like likes and comments -- all of these super malleable UI/UX features and not about actual human beings and what we care to see, and what we go on these platforms for.” - Alex Wolf
Leveraging tech to support social change has had a major moment over the course of the last few years. Finding community and support online has been essential to so many people -- minority groups in particular. Getting caught up in the negatives that social media and tech can inflict is common, so recognizing the connection between tech and social justice has been an important lesson for a few of our panelists and has helped them to shape the work they do. This has shown the true power of leveraging technology for the greater good. Mir Harris spoke to this in discussing her past experience working at Time’s Up.
“Tech was everything in terms of spreading information and connecting people. I think that is a congruent theme through all the work that I do. There’s a lot of people who have ideas, there's a lot of people who want to make impact, but there’s not always the connectivity that is necessary, especially to the folks who are already in the space doing the work. We tried to use technology, as we’ve seen most recently with Black Futures Lab and getting the Census to more people in more areas.” - Mir Harris
Building a community can be one of the most gratifying pieces of running a business. Seeing people with similar interests and goals come together is incredibly powerful, and often represents validation and success around whatever you are building. Whether it happens strategically or organically, building and nurturing a community brings an incomparable sense of connection. However, recognizing the difference between strategic and organic community building is important. Nick Gerard commented.
“Organic growth is super exciting. There’s no better feeling in the world than starting something and watching it grow and watching other like-minded people discover it. But one of the things we're trying to think a lot about at Norby is ‘What kind of strategy is necessary to create intentional spaces?’ Because one of the historic problems in tech is that insular communities of like-minded people wind up designing spaces for themselves that don’t take into account the perspectives of other people who aren’t in that inner circle. As much as organic growth is exciting, so much strategy is needed in 2021 to build an inclusive, intentional community.” - Nick Gerard
As time passes, community and retail seem to become more and more connected. Companies outside of tech, brands that sell physical products in particular, are starting to come to the realization that community is of value to them too. Consumers tend to favor brands that can provide them with some sort of experience, connection, or community based initiative that is beyond just the product they are buying itself. As a marketer or business owner, understanding the connection between retail and community can be pivotal. Boye Fajinmi spoke to this.
“Companies that aren’t tech products are also extremely passionate about figuring out their communities. I think a big reason is because a lot of these brands are understanding that community is really the best way to move their product. If I am Nike, I need to build a Nike Run Club because community is literally the way that I am going to push my product.” - Boye Fajinmi
As a community builder, leveraging tech to your advantage is such a huge piece of the puzzle. While it can easily feel driven by likes, comments, and all that other *significantly* less important stuff, ultimately, community relies on human nature and connection. In order to be effective, building a community should be authentic, meaningful, and intentional. Yes-- tech can help us along the way, but successful community building relies on connection.