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People ask me all the time what my secret sauce is for online
community building and I always make some self-deprecating comment about
how my mom pays people a lot of money to be nice to me.

But I’ve really been thinking about what it is that creates such a strong sense of community and why they want to continue giving.

This is the formula I keep coming back to:

Human beings + humility + sense of humor + feeding other’s egos + not expecting anything in return = the online community secret sauce.

Just the other day, I was speaking to a Vistage group and one business leader asked, “Why can’t we just sign up for all of the social media platforms and see what sticks?”

I’ve said this time and time again, but this is not the “Field of Dreams.” If you build it, they will not come. You actually have to build real relationships with real people if you want to build a community
who cares about your, your company, and/or your brand. And it’s not easy
work. Think of it this way…if your sole job was networking, how would
you go about it?

You likely would have a networking formula where you listen, engage, and participate. You would find people you want to do business with or can refer business to and you would build an offline community. The same
goes for an online community, so let’s break down the forumula...

Human beings. Duh. We can’t have a community without human beings.

Humility. No one likes an egomaniac. No one likes people who act like jerks, just because they have a lot of Twitter followers or Facebook fans. Maybe the nice guy finishes last, but his
relationships last longer. I have a handful of friends who have carte
blanche to smack me if I ever get too big for my britches. I never want
to be perceived as having a large ego.

Sense of humor. Ever notice the people around you who never get defensive when they’re criticized? Or who make fun of themselves as often as possible? This comes with confidence and a sense
of humility. Plus, it’s way more fun to be around (even online) people
who know how to laugh.

Feeding other’s egos. Sure, I just said humility wins in the community building game, but all of us have egos. All of us are a little bit narcissistic. And that’s OK. As long as we can fit our
heads through our doorways. I think this mantra is very Midwest, but I
believe that if you scratch someone’s back, they’ll eventually turn
around and scratch yours too. Lots of people moan and groan about
this…”I don’t have time to feed other people’s egos.” Trust me on this
one. If you scratch their back, they will scratch yours. Ever had
someone visit your store, buy your product, or even read your blog who
is a huge fan? How does it make you feel when you don’t know anything
about that person? I know if makes me feel really guilty. I go out of my
way to find out more about them, take notes, and help them whenever

Don’t expect anything in return. This is like expecting to get the girl because you bought a girl dinner. As soon as you expect it, you might as well expect the glass of wine that is about to be
thrown in your face, too.

But the truth of the matter is, there isn’t a one size fits all online community secret sauce. You have to do what works for you. As long as you respect and admire people for just being people, your secret
saucecan consist of whatever you think works.

Which opens the floor to you. What is your online community secret sauce?

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