Building a community shaped brand

2021 was the year of discovering community. 2022 will be the year of businesses reinventing the community. Your next 5 mins shall be spent on a story that’s getting written, that’s starting to get heard and that’s probably yours too. If you are a community professional, then you should stay till the end. If you are an entrepreneur or corporate executive or a hustler waiting to begin a start-up, then you must stay till the end. Because you need to value communities as much as you value businesses. Let me tell you why.

Commonly, the community is most easily understood in its popular connotation -a group of people with shared interests/goals. The layman definition of business is a beneficial transaction for everyone involved. Let’s ask ourselves a question, can we create a business that’s beneficial for everyone, where they are brought together by a shared goal? Another question for us — what is the future of business as a human endeavor? Especially, in a world that depicts four characteristics to consider -

a) Most interconnected than ever,

b) Infatuated with purpose & meaningful engagements,

c) Lonelier than ever,

d) People want to be brands, Brands want to be people.

Business aka trade in the former times, relied upon ships and trains. Today the internet is a trade route. Tomorrow, it will be another name with the same game. The one thing that has been constant across ages is that communities shaped businesses and businesses shaped communities. Their mutual dependence has never been so explicit and exciting though. Secondly, business as an endeavor perspired across spaces & stories. Be it cafes, clubs, marriages, religious gatherings, fairs, festivals, bonfires, birthdays, salon parties, spa chambers, gyms, so on and so forth. Business is all-pervasive.

Flirting with trends, culture and human interest stories has been the modus operandi of businesses. Has it always been successful and profitable? Often businesses get criticized for co-opting causes and serving tokenism, belittling consumers. Consumer protection laws exist because there has been a power imbalance.

Cut to today, consumers becoming creators, users becoming contributors, and believers becoming brand ambassadors, a true business can’t undermine the relationship it has with its beneficiaries. And that’s where the community thrives and demands your attention.

Businesses value metrics. But, people value stories. And that’s why businesses are forced to value stories. This doesn’t mean metrics and stories are mutually exclusive. Data and storytelling together make magic happen. Scientific inquiry helps us unravel this magic and take advantage. Communities are the buzz due to businesses beginning this scientific inquiry. As the story unfolds, the inquiry becomes reflection, followed by reinvention. This is slow. This is true.

Flashback to childhood, when we were asked to be in the company of better kids, spend time with folks who help us become better & achieve excellence with more ease and greater probability. And we ourselves did this as we grew up. What’s the science there? We need to see the community not just as an event that happens, but actually as a pedagogical intervention that’s been around for ages. Its assimilation into the culture may disguise it. Can we deny its impact though?

So, which professional community are you part of? Many of us would realise that this cultural norm somehow fades out as we venture into professional life. Whether you are a fresher or a veteran, a founder or intrapreneur, you have a community (which might be scattered). This community when together has more to offer than its individual parts. Your contribution is your fees for your social capital. Social capital is popularly conveyed in the words, “Network is your net-worth.” Talking of wealth, let’s get back to business.

The community, when built around a business, serves the business goals by helping customers meet other customers who then credit the brand of the business for their bond. The community, when built around a professional role, serves the goals of excellence and upskilling by connecting you to fellow professionals who exchange quite a lot in a dynamic environment rather than a solitary learning journey. Gather and grow is a mantra.

Treating the community as a subset of the business spreads the value too thin. As the history of business would tell us, we have changed the way business got done. This is another paradigm shift. Since we have been using currency across multiple generations, we often forget that there used to be other systems before currency became the practice. Community to business is currency to barter. And this story is just getting heard.

For a story that's in progress, these 4 minutes are not even a fair synopsis. For reading the synopsis, join the open communities where you connect and co-create. Listen to your business and you will hear the voice of your community.