Community: A unified body of individuals.
It’s that word that’s thrown around casually, a word we’re expected to know, understand, and jump right in with: Community. Recently, Etsy has made it well-known that its focus is to be an online community rather than just being a marketplace. Helpful tips claim that community is a key aspect to a successful online business. But community… what is it? How do we achieve community, especially online?
Many of us, me included, may have started our blog hoping to get noticed, hoping to drive some traffic to our Etsy stores, or make a living from blogging. Many of us have twitter accounts, facebook accounts, and the like, to get noticed and get sales. Period. But is this really good motivation? Does it really work that way?
Today, it hit me that I am a part of a community, intentional or not.
As I chat back and forth with a girl who happens to live near me, and who happened to come across my Etsy shop, and who happens to know some of the same people I know, and yet we’ve never met in person, I realize that she is part of my community. I’ve formed a relationship of sorts with her.
As I send a quick note to my Etsy friend asking for advice with the pricing of an item, or to discuss where we love to shop for clothes, even though she lives 1000 miles from me, I realize that she is part of my community. She is a close friend.
After buying some fabric from a seller, and exchanging a few messages back and forth, she is kind enough to show the item I made from the fabric on her blog. We are instantly part of a community. I feel like I could call her up, meet at a coffee shop, and talk for hours.
There are so many other stories of people finding each other and becoming part of the community. It’s true, Etsy sellers and buyers, bloggers, twitterers, we’re all part of a community. And this community, it’s for more than shop success. It’s for more than getting a sale, or getting another follower on your blog.
So how did I become a part of the community?
I started by finding blogs I loved to read. Trust me, one will lead to another :)
I began following these blogs sincerely, leaving comments when I liked the post. Blogging is an instant way to get to know someone, their likes and dislikes, their style. Read, comment, get to know others. Click links, explore a bit! Email the author if you have something you think they’d like to share with their readers. As a blogger, respond to comments where warranted with a personal email to the commenter.
I began sending a more personal message to those whom I was buying from.
Instead of just adding to cart and purchasing, why not follow up with a message telling the seller how much you enjoyed browsing their shop, or showing them what you ended up doing with their product. Take a picture, send it to them or attach it to feedback. I’m almost positive that any seller would absolutely love this and it might inspire some conversation.
I joined an Etsy team.
Teams are a great way to get to know others… some teams chat more than others, so if you’re looking to get to know people, check to see that the team you are joining is active. Some teams have a forum thread to chat on. Be active there when possible. Some of my closest Etsy friends have come from the team I’m on.
I feature others.
A quick way to make friends is to show off someone else’s item on your blog. An interesting blog, facebook account, or twitter page is one that isn’t necessarily all about yourself or your shop. It’s one that shares information and ideas from others. Make sure to include links to the source, of course, but most bloggers and sellers are more than willing to allow you to share their product, tutorial, or pictures on your blog as long as the appropriate attribution is applied. You can always email the owner of the content to make sure they don’t mind!
Community. It is achievable, and it is a great thing. It does require getting outside of yourself. It does require time and effort. But the benefits of community go far and deep. There are few things better than featuring someone else’s work, and reading the comments of those who love it.
A quick final note: Online communities are wonderful, but not without flaws. Always make sure to be careful when sharing personal information online. If anything seems odd or out of place, do not hesitate to cut off communication with that person. Online communities also cannot replace the fellowship that comes with local communities, those you can meet face to face.