It’s easy to get followers and fans online today. All you do is make a few posts and have people a thumb or a follow button. Sure, you have to have some engaging content but that’s ancillary to getting that follower number high in the sky! Accumulating fans and followers is the new chase for social cred.
But how do you turn those followers and fans into a real community? There has to be some magic that happens as soon as you cross a threshold, right? You just wave your hand and when you hit the magic number your legions of followers become a community and all is well. That has to be how it works.
In You We Trust
It’s not quite as simple as we make it out to be. Ethan Banks gave a great Ignite Talk during Security Field Day in December 2018 about this very topic. Ethan and Greg Ferro have grown the Packet Pushers Podcast from a small frequent podcast about IT networking into a media juggernaut that embraces security, networking, and more across a variety of show formats with many different hosts.
But Packet Pushers didn’t start out as a media titan. It took lots of blood, sweat, and tears to build the podcast and community into what it is today. Throughout the talk in the video above Ethan goes over some of the challenges that were faced and obstacles that were overcome. But there was one overriding piece of advice that he keeps coming back to again and again.
The difference between fans and a real community is trust. You have to create trust as the foundation for building something bigger. Imagine if you‘re building a community about classic car restoration and then one day decided to change everything to be about Monarch butterflies. You abandon your previous content and alienate your existing fans in favor of your new passion. Do you think your classic car people are going to stick around to hear about migration patterns and milkwood?
Your community won’t develop without trust. Your community won’t even attempt to grow without a solid foundation that says they aren’t going to be forgotten about as soon as the next trendy topic comes along. Let’s face it: computer networking can be boring and downright unexciting. But it’s a necessary part of what we do. And that means that we need to give it comes consideration and thought. And the podcasts and bloggers that do that have built the kind of trust that shows they’re in it for the long haul.
You have to keep that trust too. You can’t just build your community and then exploit it for personal gain. You’ve probably experienced this before when someone is friends with you on social media and never interacts with you. Then, suddenly, out of the blue they want to have coffee and chat. If you’ve ever been pitched on the social sales model you probably know what’s coming next. Shampoo, candles, or even insurance. It’s so easy! Just alienate your friends and community members and turn them into a customer list to make your sales goals and take a trip to sunny Omaha next year for convention!
Your community is counting on you to keep them safe. Not only from other people who might choose to exploit them but also from yourself and those dark urges to overreach your role and use them for personal gain. Ethan does a great job of outlining how the Packet Pushers protects their community to avoid betraying the trust that has been invested in them.
Bringing It All Together
Ethan’s talk during Security Field Day was a wonderful explanation of the difficulty and rewards for building a community. You should definitely check out the whole video and learn about the things that the Packet Pushers are doing. Trust me.