Thursday, April 15, 2010

A post about Community

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.



Christie Cottage said...

Very well written!

I have found myself talking with someone and refer to "X". They will ask who is that? I have to laugh, because not only do I not refer to etsy shop owners by their name, only their shop name, I have to explain tyhat I know them from "online".

Have a wonderful day!

Liv said...

Great post. It's so easy to forget that sense of modern community.

I read a lot of blogs, but don't always take time to commment, but then I love when people comment too.

You're right, blogging is not only about making money. I decided a while ago that I don't care if I turn my blog into a "money making thing," I would rather inspire others to pursue their own creativity. That means more to me.

Thanks for writing this.

Dionne said...

Yup. Community is so important in every aspect of life. I think that anything that we value in our personal lives can also come into play in our business lives. Community is key!

hiddenmanna said...

Erin, I've had some very similar experiences, and can totally relate. Thanks for sharing this!

Christina Moreno- floresdelsol said...

Wow! As I read this post I am stunned by the fact that I know Dionne from above comment and how i've come across your shop a few times through etsy and blog links.
I guess we are in the same community!! What a "small" world.

thank you , i loved this post!!!

Anonymous said...

I love my 'in real person' community, but I also love my online community. Less than a year ago, I didn't realize it was possible to be friends with people online, but I consider my online community as friends just as much as the people I know in person!
Bloomfield Beads

SHEILA said...

Great post Erin. I feel the same way. My online community is made up of so many people who I now call friends. Just think not that many years ago this type of community didn't exist!
PS-I just saw you put my little russian doll in a previous post-thanks!

Rustique Art said...

Very well though out and communicated and "community" sounds more comfortable than "networking". Community symbolizes fellowship, education, encouragement, sharing, caring....and so much more. Networking sounds like a web...and I get tangled up in webs :)

Erin you are precious! I love having you in my community!

Anonymous said...

It's so true...I never realized how much I would love my online buddies! The community of fellowship you have with individuals you never meet is amazing.

Of course, sometimes you're doubly blessed, in that you get to meet them in person...that is a memory to treasure always!

Holly said...

A wonderful and insightful post.I had no idea I would be a part of such a lovely community when I began blogging. My hubby thinks I am a little weird when I talk about, "I saw this one a blog." or "A blogger said." I have been introduced to so many amazing people and inspirations.

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