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December 21, 2010
Get Active Everywhere Else...
Have you ever wondered why there is such a struggle to build a sense of community around the digital marketing initiatives you are developing? 
Community building goes well beyond the famous movie line, "If you build it, they will come" from Field of Dreams. There is one critical piece of the puzzle that most marketers and self-proclaimed "community managers" forget: It's not about what's happening on your space as much as it is about what you're doing on the communities that serve your industry and space. 
You will have no semblance of community unless you are an active community member in the other spaces. 
If I had to do this job all over again and start from scratch right now, what would I do? Without question, I would start a blog and fill it with relevant and valuable content for the community, but I would spend 10 times as much time adding value to the five or 10 existing communities where my potential members might be hanging out, reading, and connecting. It's not a ploy and it's not a trick; I would do this because I am interested and want to engage with the other community members. I would also be hopeful that those community members would be appreciative of my contributions and take a chance on checking out what I'm up to on my own space. 
Give more than you get. 
Some people hear that phrase and think it's about giving more on their own space (blogging more or tweeting more). Big mistake. The "win" (if you can even call it that) is to give away more on existing/other communities and spaces. To be valuable and relevant there. This strategy does seem so counterintuitive at first blush. The idea is to populate and add value to someone else's platform and community? Yes. Hugh McGuire (from Librivox, Bite-Sized Edits, and a co-host on Media Hacks) said it beautifully and succinctly: "Don't blog to be known... blog to be knowable." It's subtle... and it's true. 
The community decides when it's a community... you don't. 
When you are an active member of an existing community, its members will, if everything goes well, become proud participants and members of your community. They don't owe it to you -- and just because you created a platform doesn't give you explicit rights to any community. As mentioned here, there, and everywhere:Community is something that is earned after time and value. Community is not something that happens when you need it, it's something that you build over time and is suddenly there for you when you need it. 
If you want to build a community, be an active community member everywhere else first... and mean it.

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Mitch Joel is president of Twist Image  -- an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. His first book, Six Pixels of Separation, named after his successful blog and podcast, is a business and marketing bestseller. Follow Mitch here: www.twistimage.com/blog
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