• Sarah Robinson

The 10 Commandments: Why Churches Understand Building Communities & You Don’t [Part 2]

This is Part Two of a guest post by Ryan Cox. Ryan is the owner of Cox Consulting – a community management, audience development firm. They run the gambit of online & social media marketing and have a love for data and conversions. He is also on the founding team of Seconds, a mobile payments tool based out of Seattle. His passion for audience development and community can be found deeply integrated into the Fierce-Loyalty mission. Ryan is fascinated with words so he has a blog. He does tweet, too, and quite frequently, so follow him here.

The 10 Commandments: Why Churches Understand Building Communities & You Don’t [Part 2]

The first five commandments highlighted that the groundwork for building a community is research and activation. In Part 1, I explained how churches identify its community’s passion, and executes in the sharing and empowerment of that message. Here are the first five commandments as a reminder:

  1. Identify the common passion.

    1. In church, this is the religion the congregation all worship.

  2. Execute the message in response to the passion.

    1. In church, this is the sermon heard every Sunday.

  3. Share the message and create conversations.

    1. In church, this is going out and recruiting other practitioners of your faith.

  4. Empower your community to take an active role.

    1. In church, this is sign-ups for events, team leaders, new church membership welcoming, fundraisers, etc.

  5. Identify the influencers.

    1. In church, these are the members who seem to always be taking charge, communicating with other members, and showcase the strongest dedication to the faith/community.

Commandments 6 through 10 focus on two things: repetition and feedback. Churches are expressively efficient at developing these two ingredients in the secret sauce that is building a community.

  1. Trust your core members and welcome the new. In church, this is done through committees on both the core and welcoming side.

If I don’t feel you trust me as a member of your community, then why would I want to be involved? With the power and immediacy of Social Media right now, I’m not always going to agree with your messaging or services. How are you resolving my pain points? And if I’m a new member, do I feel like I have to jump through 10 different hoops just to be noticed? Why haven’t you welcomed me? As a business, you want to trust your core audience and community members. They are undoubtedly already leaders and free marketing tools for you. Don’t try to control a member or their messaging – suggest and give ideas of what you’re wanting them to say – let them say it their own way. And with new members, a rewards program for activation of their interest in your brand or company is a great way to make someone feel welcomed. A free appetizer and a welcoming email into to checkout your Facebook page for example, create additional touch points to keep me better hooked to your business. You can extend those small rewards to Liking on Facbeook, Following on Twitter – entering a new member you’ve just on boarded into contests keeps the hook in and their interest level palpable.

  1. Deliver on your promises around the core passion. In church, the core passion is the faith practiced by the congregation – if a minister were to deviate from that core passion, the congregation would look elsewhere for worship.

You have built a community around a common passion. Take a brewery for example – that passion is obvious, beer. If a brewery were to try deviate from its community and start to focus more on tours, including wine, adding a food menu, etc.; it would risk losing the shared common passion amongst its members and thus, lose its community. Think of a community as a one trick pony: you’ve got a great trick – develop, nurture, expand and build around that one trick – don’t dilute, abandon, experiment and try to create a new trick.

  1. Encourage individuality and personality in your community. In church, this is the old adage that everyone’s faith is different, but they believe in the same God.

The goal of building a community is not to have 1,000 of the same Plain Jane’s and Tuxedo Tom’s as your members. Diversity is a key differentiator in building successful communities. Take Harley Davidson for example: we all have in our mind some rugged middle aged white man on his motorcycle, smoking his cigarette with more tattoos than you can count, with is younger wife in her low-cut jean shorts and bikers jacket. Stereotypes are that for a reason, because it highlights the majority of a given ‘typecast’. However, Harley doesn’t brand their product to that demographic only. Individuality and personality are showcased through their bikes and their marketing. Harley is cool-kid cool, biker-guy cool, and bad-ass-lady cool. Harley Davidson has done a phenomenal job in building out its community around a common passion, but allowing individuality and personality of many different segments.

  1. Receive feedback with open arms. In church, this is done through comment cards, prayer circles, committee meetings, etc. Your community needs to feel like their opinions and suggestions are being heard.

“Some of the best ideas come from the least likely of sources.” – Anonymous Do not be a business that doesn’t take an active role in a feedback system. Especially in the landscape of social media we are living in today, if you ignore the feedback – it’ll just find a new channel to voice itself, and most likely a MUCH BIGGER channel at that. It is time intensive and it requires dedication to the task, but feedback on your messaging and/or your product/service can prove to be invaluable to your business. Interestingly enough, it can also prove to be exponentially more important in building your community. Give the member a feeling of power to help enact change, for the better, and you’ve empowered a very loud voice in your corner.

  1. Rinse and repeat. In church, this means having service the same time every week on the same day. All church related events, like new member Friday, are repeated like clockwork.

Repetition is often listed as one of the keys to success. Once you identify it, repeat it for optimal results. Communities by design, have levels of expectations that are engrained in the community. Deviation from expectations is an easy way to turn away the community. Create a road map and execute on that road map. Do you have a new member Friday? What kind of email marketing touch do you have for new sign-ups? Is there any touch to a community member on their birthday, like a free dinner? Find a routine and execute. The more you rinse and repeat, the more second nature the community thinking about you on those days becomes.

Churches have excelled at these 10 steps to building a community for decades. Here is a reminder that you’ve might of overlooked so far too: churches do not have a product or service to sell. Attendance is free. I bring this up not to devalue faith, merely highlight a fact. Churches have developed fiercely loyal communities around people’s religious beliefs. Those beliefs are some of the most active, questioned and debated in the modern world. Whether Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or any of the hundreds of other religious beliefs – churches develop fiercely loyal communities. These 10 commandments will help you in building your community – churches have proven it time and time again.