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Building an Online Community: The Barn-Raising Strategy

If you build it, they will come? Think again. Building a strong and vibrant community online takes more than a "Field of Dreams" approach. In fact, that looks a lot like building a barn.
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Which of these descriptions fits how you think about building your business?

My business is like the field of dreams, build it and they shall come!

My business is like a barn raising. There is a leader, a plan, and a community of skilled people who are willing to help.

Sadly, too many entrepreneurial-types approach their business concept with the idyllic vision of the field of dreams.  Of course people will love it, it's my idea and it's perfect! Alas, with much time and money lost, reality offers a painful lesson.

Business strategist and SOBCon founder Liz Strauss advises clients to build their business using the good, old fashioned barn-raising strategy:  Be the leader, have a plan, and utilize your social-media community.

"When we reach out and talk to people about our compelling idea, the social-media community responds," says Strauss. "They let us know what works for them and what doesn't."

Strauss argues that if your idea is truly compelling, the folks you've formed relationships with can offer you help more than you've ever imagined.

Just think about how powerful WordPress is. But it wasn't because its founders did it alone. In fact, they engaged the entire blogging and tech community in making WordPress what it is today. This open-source blogging tool offers a plethora of widgets, plug-ins, and themes because Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little were visionary enough to invite the world to contribute to its on-going growth. The possibilities were, and still are, endless! Think of it this way: WordPress is a world-class barn-raising event.

"Barn-raising a business in the social media culture offers the business and the community members who participate clear benefits," says Strauss.

If you're wondering how you might raise a barn, Strauss suggests that raising a barn is easier if you follow these guidelines.

1. Show up in spades. Be there. Gather everything you might be, everything you might offer, and all you believe. No barn was ever raised by, for, or with someone who didn't invest, want, and already envision a working farm.

2. Bring a simple plan and a people-centered process. Support and encourage expression, participation, and creativity. Don't give undue attention to nonparticipants. Some folks need to find their own way in, instead be attractive.

3. Fill the quest with quality. Have the best leaders, the best tools, the best food, the best places to think, talk, work, and relax.

4. Know, love, and trust the people who are investing. Welcome everyone who came to contribute. Let them know they are valued. Leave room in the plan for positive mutations. Let people be smarter, than you are.

And when the barn is almost finished ...

5. Give back, give forward. Take action that keeps the momentum. Work in full gratitude by, for, and with everyone who participated to celebrate what's been raised. Find ways to help them pass on the experience and insights they gained to those who could use them.

Barn raising builds the community at the same time that it builds the business that will serve us. Everyone who has participated is invested in its success, so much so that it practically guarantees it!

IMAGE: cindy47452/Flickr
Last updated: Apr 26, 2013

MARLA TABAKA

Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.




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