Thursday, June 26, 2008

Community: Great Return on Your... INVESTMENT!!!

Day #4.  So far we have Introduction, Involvement, and Interaction under our belt.  Today we add, "Investment."  Yes, that's right.  In order to establish a sense of community members must feel some sense of "investment" in the group and in the group's happenings.  

Let's consider a few communities where this principle seems to hold true.  The first thing that comes to mind are sports teams.  Reader Cristine and her family come are a great example.  Her husband, Matt, is the consummate Packer's fan.  They own Green Bay shirts for every season, arm chairs, ornaments, Christmas lights, pennants and banners, glasses, bibs, you name it....  If a Green Bay logo can be printed on it, chances are Matt and Cristine have one.  But they're not alone.  Sports fans from all corners of the country are invested in their sports teams with the same level of fervor.  Why is that?

Jazz is the woman who cut my hair when I lived in Louisville.  In the right hand corner of her cutting station sat a plastic file box, organized by letters of the alphabet.  Each card contained the name, contact information, (and "treatments") of each client.  Jazz never let you tip her and insisted, if you were pleased with her service, that instead of a tip you refer her a new client.  She also offered a discount on your next haircut if, in fact, you sent someone her way.  Not only is Jazz excellent at what she does, but I was invested in helping build her clientele, first because she thanked me on the front end by not accepting my tip and second because each referral meant more money saved.  

The same is true of the preschool where my son's go.  Send a referral there way and save $100.00 on next month's tuition.  Investment in spreading their word.  Heck, even Adsense is effective at investing me in their company's purpose, by paying me a tiny dividend for each ad clicked on by one of my readers.  So, while fans become invested in community based on pride and the hope of bragging rights, other groups attempt to create investment by offering an incentive.  Still other groups such as churches, political campaigns, and local associations create investment by appealing to your self interests (religious beliefs, nomination of candidate, safety and well being of children or a neighborhood, etc...).  

Regardless of the motivation for one's investment or the method used, one thing is certain...  thriving communities have members who are invested in the life of the group.  What made highlowaha readers so invested in my reaching 5,000 readers back in April?  What makes a reader invested enough in the community that you might check the blog not once, or twice, but even three times in the same day (have I mentioned how GREAT I think that is)?  On the flip side, what might I do to get more readers invested in the outcome of Bigger or Better?  Or, is there a magic word or series of spells that could be placed on the community to make readers more invested in assuring I receive a Random Acts of Kindness postcard from each highlowaha reader (4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, Texas, 76051)? 

In thriving communities, where purpose and vision is shared, members understand that success for one person inevitably means success for others.  Let's explore.  Spreading the good word about to friends and family who might be interested directly helps me increase readership.  True.  But, Wendy, Beekayroot, and the artist from Philadelphia whose art will be featured soon, also benefit from increased readership.  The more people visiting the site, the more likely they are to drum up business.  Melanie's Beliz earnings could double in size for next year if more readers participated in the community and just one of them was service minded.  Free For All Friday exponentially increases in value when readership grows and more creative minds are tackling the "challenges" of the day.  The list goes on and on.  If we are a community with shared purpose (which I believe we are) then investing in the success of one member might cause a ripple effect of success for other members.

Maybe we can put this to the test.  I have an idea, but none of the "technical" ability necessary to execute.  Imagine a tear-away-flier promoting and providing the website address for people to conveniently take with them.  You know the kind I'm talking about.  You see them on public bulletin boards at the post office, in gyms, and on kiosks around town and on college campuses.  They are used to advertise apartments for rent, things to sell, etc....  I see the flier portion simply stating...

Fall in Love with a New Idea
(a graphic of a light bulb)

Plug In!
(At the bottom would be the small strips, each printed with

Once created, a copy could be emailed to all willing and interested readers, so that he/she might print it off and post the flier in their neighborhood, at their school, church, gym, or university.  I will know how much progress I've made toward creating an "invested" readership, if even one person jumps on my request to help make the flier happen.  The more invested you are, the more apt you are to root for our success - much like you did with "Reaching for 5,000).

One more thing.  I love Jazz's file box and decided I should have one too.  So, while you aren't clients and I won't be styling your hair.... I am invested in knowing more about you.  Knowing your birthdays, life goals, skills, things you want to learn, and marital status, etc... (see 6/23) helps me craft blog entries more focused on your interests.  I used Monday's responses to "introduction" to create your file box cards.  To date I have 19 cards in my box.  I file you by first name and so far the letters represented include: A, B, C, H, J, K, L, M, P, S, T, and W.  I still need at least one card for letters D, E, F, G, I, N, O, Q, R, U, V, X, Y, and Z.  So, while you're hanging your tear away fliers later this afternoon, help seek and encourage readers whose names start with any of the unrepresented letters.

Signing off until tomorrow...  

P.S.  Sara, thank you for posting yesterday.  It is great to have you as an active member of our community!  Kat, thanks for helping make it happen.  An example of "investment" at its best!

No comments: