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Courtesy of Nora Abousteit, Founder and CEO of Kollabora

Often times you’ll hear the Conscious team mention that community is everything to us.  Meet us once and you’ll know this is true. Conscious was built to give a voice to people and organizations that have powerful, important stories to tell but mainstream media was ignoring.  People were coming to us to share their stories, photographers wanted to share their work, and in turn we had a community of readers that wanted to be a part of the conversation.  Our readers were seeking to be part of a collective group of people doing good. The passionate participation of our community of contributors, freelancers, readers and fellow do-gooders are what shaped our voice. They are our community.

So what does community mean to you?  Is it your neighborhood? Your dance class?  A place where you go to seek solace?  Is it a physical space?  Is it a feeling you get when you are part of something cooperative? Or all of the above?  When it comes to building a business there is a lot of talk about the importance of building an online and offline community, and while yes it can be defined by the number of followers or subscribers you have, I think it should be defined by when your ideas, thoughts, opinions and passions are shared, received and reciprocated in a positive way.  It is a feeling of support when a community of people understand and share your goals.

This month I had the awesome opportunity to attend a workshop on building creative communities at Pioneer Works for The Feast, an (un) conference dedicated to bringing together entrepreneurs, doers and thinkers that are revolutionizing the way things work for the betterment of humanity.  Leading this workshop was Nora Abousteit, Founder and CEO of Kollabora, a creative community for makers, crafters and DIY’ers to find and make projects.  While I admittedly hadn’t heard of Kollabora before, it was was apparent during her workshop that it didn’t matter because her advice on how she built a community of over 1 million with Kollabora was reason enough for me to listen up.  It’s obvious that she is on to something.

While I listened to Nora discuss both emotional and practical advice on what it takes to build a community I realized that her perspective was unique.  She framed it in a way that I haven't heard before.  Sure we can talk about the importance of technology (and she does discuss some of this) but her thought process was rooted in the psychology of what makes successful communities, from religions and tribes to youth groups and families.  She dissects what it is that we feel when we are a part of a community and then advises us to use this to guide practical applications in our businesses. 

Because I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop I thought I would share Nora’s rules with you.

8 Rules To Building a Creative Community
01 | Build Others Up
Think about how you can help people with your product/service and build a platform that achieves that. It’s not about the technology, it’s about elevating others to succeed.  Think about what that means to your product or service. Is it a social sharing option? A member of the week email?

02 | Praise Early Users
It’s crucial to focus on your early users.  Your early users are with you from the beginning, through the growing pains and they see the beauty in your imperfect (growing) product.  They are trendsetters and leaders because they discovered you first. Early users are the ones that help spread the message of your business.  They are the ones bringing new people to your site because they believe in your product. Treat them well, send them personal notes, or give them special discounts and free stuff. They will stick with you.

03 | Incentives & Motivations
It’s important to understand the incentives and motivation of your community.  Why are your subscribers attracted to your business?  What draws them in?  What is it that makes people engage (and not just view) but actually participate and contribute to your platform? Remember that the same rules apply online as they do offline.  Develop motivators to keep your community involved. Give them tasks and responsibilities so they take ownership for their participation. Make sure to reward them for their loyalty.  Let them be a part of your success and make sure they know that their contribution matters and that they are being heard. Define what a special feature means to you and your business.

04 | (Healthy) Vanity
While it seem silly to discuss, it’s actually a big driving force that we need to understand in order to effectively communicate with a community.  This isn’t about looks, it’s about lifting people up so they can showcase their best self.  It’s about pride in one’s qualities, abilities and achievement.  Think about how you can let your followers shine and show off their unique skills.  Build features for this or give them a spot where they can showcase themselves.  Give them a space for photos to show off to their friends and community.  Make them shine!

05 | Values 
Define your values. This is key in building community because your values are what drives people to want to join you.  Make sure you clearly define, communicate and stand by your brand's’ values.  It’s much easier for people to jump on board when values are defined and shared. Think about your community when defining your values.  What are the shared values of your community? What does your brand stand for?

06 | Reciprocity
Celebrate your community!  Don’t just have a platform that people can come to, make sure you also go to them.  A community is a two way street, it’s a conversation and it involves a back and forth.  Comment on blogs and support what your community is doing.  Chat over social media, support their campaigns, and attend events your followers are hosting.  Be there for your followers!

07 | Lingo
Speaking the same language is key when communicating right? Duh!  So think about the lingo you use with your followers. Can you create terms or phrases that are specific and unique to your product or community?  Maybe define what it means a member of your community? For example, what does it mean to be “conscious”.   What does it mean to be a do-gooder or change-maker?

08 | Governorship
It’s proven that we (as society) tend to feel safe and comfortable with rules and traditions so it’s important that you set up a governorship for your business too.  What are your rules and regulations?  Remember that you set the tone, you’re the host, you’re the governor. Lead by example and showcase your leaders.  Your community needs to see the leaders.  They want to trust the people behind your brand.  They want to get to know you.  It’s not about technology, it’s about sharing values, it’s about liking the type of people (community) that flock to your business. Set traditions.  This make people feel safe, like in families and religion.  It builds trust, structure and familiarity.

More On Kollabora
The root of Kollabora is “working together”.  Every day, thousands of makers, crafters, and DIY enthusiasts of all skill levels visit Kollabora to get inspired, share projects, buy and sell PDF patterns, and connect with each other and their favorite brands.  Kollabora and the Kollaborator Ad Network are reaching over 1 million makers, crafters, and DIY enthusiasts between 20 and 40 years old of all skill levels.

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Interview with Jerri Chou of the Feast, a Worldwide Conversation

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