300px Cobbler%27s Thumb%2C New England Street   geograph.org.uk   273068 The Element of Community Businesses Often Forget

We talk a lot about community. It’s one of those buzzwords we throw around when discussing this new age of marketing in a world of social media. And that’s a good thing. Community is important.

But we generally have it wrong.

When it comes to talking about, and building, a community around a business we tend to be shortsighted and selfish.

The idea is that you use social media to build a community. The interpretation is that that community is built with your business at the center, and the community exists for you and your success.

But in reality, that’s not what community is about. As my friend Brenda showed in her guest post yesterday about her memoir, community is about so much more. It’s not about being at the center and having people focus on you. It’s just about being there and contributing to the greater good.

That means that, yes, sometimes it will be about you. But more often than not, it’s about someone else. If you business has an online community, it’s as much about you giving as it is receiving. It’s about you focusing on others – your customers – more than it is about them focusing on you. It’s about contributing on a regular basis, and supporting the other members of your community.

This goes against the grain for most businesses, because they are self-absorbed and inwardly focused on profit and the bottom line. But the sustainability of the community is a better long term strategy than self-preservation. Businesses need to think about the good of the community, and they will benefit as well.

Community is not about you. Community is about shared experiences and defining one another’s lives. It’s about how we treat our employees and our customers. It’s also about how we treat other businesses, and even those who might never become our customers.

It’s important to understand the difference.

Do you know of any businesses that consistently show a true sense of community?