Small Business Tip Tuesday: Building Community the Tom Sawyer Way

by Ken Mueller on February 14, 2012 · 12 comments

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tom sawyer 300x277 Small Business Tip Tuesday: Building Community the Tom Sawyer WayBuilding an online community is work, but we can learn a thing or two from our ol’ pal Tom Sawyer. Remember the part where he had to whitewash the fence on a day when he’d rather be doing anything BUT whitewashing the fence. He made it look like so much fun that other kids came and gave him their valued possessions for the chance to whitewash and get in on the fun.

In the end, Tom got his work done, ended up with some great new stuff, and the other kids actually DID have fun doing the work. In fact, Tom might actually have missed out on some of the fun by not participating.

The same can be done with our online communities.

Now I’m not suggesting that we take the analogy to its logical extreme; you should never fake it and fool people into joining your community.

But communities should have a level of fun or enjoyment. If you’re building an online social community around your business, don’t think of it as work. As I talk to friends who are community managers for businesses, one of the things I find that they have in common is that they really do enjoy what they do. They don’t really view it as “work”. Building and maintaining an online community can, and should, be fun. A lot of this is a matter of perspective and how you view your “work” and whether or not you really love what you do. Hopefully you do!

And if you’re having fun, and others see it, they will be attracted to you and your community. When people are having fun, others want to join in.

I’ve used this example before, but I go back to it often because it is a perfect example. Go spend some time over at my friend Gini Dietrich’s blog at Spin Sucks. She has built a strong community that knows how to have fun while also discussing serious issues. Read through the comments on her posts, you’ll see what I’m talking about. And the real time nature of the Livefyre plugin adds to the fun and community building aspect.

Think about your favorite social platform, whether it be Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or something else. What draws you there? I’d bet that one of the elements is that you actually enjoy using it; you have fun.

If you’re having fun, not only will you attract others, but they’ll want to help out as well. They want to be a part of what you’re doing, because, well, we all desire to belong.

Honestly. It’s OK to have fun.

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that having fun has to be all laughter and silliness. We have fun any time we enjoy something. Even when reading the most serious of books, or participating in a serious discussion, we get drawn in when it’s about a topic we enjoy.

Create great content that people enjoy, and yes, have a little fun, and you might just see greater growth in your community. People will talk about you and tell others that your place is THE place to be.

Are you having fun online? Do you enjoy the work you do when it comes to your social networks? What sorts of things have helped you develop a “fun” community?

 Small Business Tip Tuesday: Building Community the Tom Sawyer Way
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12 comments
EricaAllison
EricaAllison

Ken, if I don't have fun most of the time with the work that I do, then I suck at it! Really. I do. If I'm having fun, I'm likely to be cranking out some great content, engaging and doing some cool stuff for my clients. Mind you, it's not all fun and party-party-party 24/7; I still have a business to run. ;)

LauraC
LauraC

That's a great way of looking at it. I'd never really analyzed why people used services like Facebook, but you're right people are having fun and that's part of the success of these companies.

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vmaione
vmaione

Thanks, Ken for reminding of this! I think it is easier (and almost automatic) to have fun (online, and in-person), when we love and are committed to the work we do! Just today, for example, on the way to a business meeting, I was thinking of how much i enjoy my clients. We joke around, but are very serious and focused, too. (BTW, Today is a good day to reflect on the positives of our business and to show appreciation.) Having a sense of humor makes customer/client interactions all the more enjoyable. Bringing a plattter of cookies along doesn't hurt, either!

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

Hi Ken, the two ladies who commented before me are smart, smart, smart and fun, fun, fun!

As you probably already know Ken, I connect with people who are way smarter than me because one of the reason's I'm on the social web is to learn from the brightest minds in the world.

To have fun, laughs and pure joy in the process is the icing on the cake for me : )

Happy Valentines Day bro!

Shonali
Shonali

OK, you seriously have to get out of my head. I was just thinking yesterday about writing a post on making your work fun. Now I have to think of another angle, or at least one that doesn't puke up everything you wrote. Damn you, Mueller.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

Ah, Ken! I was here, just reading along, and then there it was. Thank you!

Sometimes I wonder if we have too much fun at Spin Sucks. But, I have to say, all work all the time is not only boring, it's hard work. Sometimes it's just as much fun to jab at an inside joke with someone as it is to discuss heady issues.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@LauraC This is where businesses fail: they look at the term Social Media Marketing, and focus on the last two words. I tell my clients to cross them out, and focus on the word "Social". That's why people are there in the first place. Not to be sold to, or to buy our products and services. So we need to find ways to be more social in our approach.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@vmaione A sense of humor, especially about yourself, is crucial. I mean, who doesn't like to have fun? Thanks for stopping by!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Mark_Harai Thanks, Mark! And you're up there in the smart category as well. And having fun sure does make this a heck of a lot better, eh?

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Shonali Sorry. But go ahead and write it. I'm sure you can put your own spin on it. Maybe make a video, with song...

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@ginidietrich Well, I know a bit about the goals of Spin Sucks, and that you're trying to build a community for the purpose of building Spin Sucks pro, and while I don't know exactly what the numbers are like, I would have to guess that you have succeeded. you've built a community that knows how to work hard and also play hard. I think that's important, because even in our offices we don't just talk about businesses, we also have fun.

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