Building community with Matt Wilson

Run Your Business Jan 12, 2016

Deepen the connection between your business and your customers.

Build a community rather than a company

At Under30Experiences we have built a “travel community” not a “travel company.” People want to know that you are in business to serve them; not for a meal ticket or fancy lifestyle. We also refer to clients as “friends” because they truly are. When your product or service is so good that it provides a life-changing experience for them, then they will feel a deep emotional connection to you, your brand and others who use it. This of course means you need excellent customer service. Go above to help a close friend. In turn, creating a community of thousands of friends creates massive word of mouth marketing and incredible loyalty!

Focus on members’ personal growth

A community should exist to perpetuate the personal and professional growth of the people it serves. If the community truly tries to do this in an authentic way, your community members will “ask not what your community can do for you, ask what you can do for your community,” as President John F. Kennedy would have said. A list of subscribers on the other hand is normally an impersonal thing based on numbers and data. Building a community is about engaging the people who you serve.

The community is usually tied together by a common set of values, and the leaders need to live these values in a very authentic way.

Hire people with passion

Find leaders who care. The only way to build a community is to have leaders who care about the people inside of it. It takes leaders who go above and beyond for their members and lead by example. The community is usually tied together by a common set of values, and the leaders need to live these values in a very authentic way. For example, with Under30Experiences, our founders and staff live out the values of traveling, understanding the world, having thoughtful conversations and having fun. This kind of attitude is contagious and creates an environment that the people inside the community can connect with. It’s what makes people stick around.

Always be communicating

Focus on communication. Our Under30Experiences travel community is spread across 25 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Because we are all communicating virtually, there needs to be special focus on consistent communication that includes email updates, conversation within the Facebook Group, and the chance to have time face-to-face and on the phone. If the leaders of your community or brand reps lose focus or interest, the community will quickly dissolve. Again, this takes leadership from the top down that facilitates community members to take action.

Encourage participation

Even if your community organizes on their own and forms 100 percent organically without the help of paid employees, it’s important to reward your community members. Early on, if I could do it again, I would have found a better reward structure to make sure our community knew how much we loved it that they organized themselves by sending free gear, shirts, or even by giving cash prizes or incentives through a referral program. I think this type of thing deepens the connection between the members and the community.

Ask your members what they want

The best part about having an engaged travel community is getting their advice about our new products and services. With a simple Facebook post and an email, we were able to design a trip to Rio de Janiero and Brazil and immediately sell out two trips. With little to no investment using the subscription-based website builder Strikingly, we were able to generate $40,000 in revenue in 48 hours. Don’t forget to ask your customers for what they want!

Find something people are passionate about or it’s not worth it. Building a community is hard work if you aren’t doing something that people absolutely love. You don’t want to beg people to be involved in your community; you want them to beg you to be involved. Don’t just copycat others, do something that an authentic group of people will have a connection to.

Let people grow and evolve

At Under30Experiences we aim to be an inclusive community instead of an exclusive community. Everyone is welcome regardless of age and if people have interest in other communities or sub-communities, we think that’s great. When people break off to do their own thing outside of the community, that’s a really good problem to have. We view our community as a place for people to grow. We don’t get upset when members leave to do other things because we know they have received all the value they needed out of our community and it is time for them to move on and graduate. When you are an inclusive, supportive group, there is no limit to how powerful your community can be!

Matt Wilson is Adventurer in Residence at the travel communityUnder30Experiences. After sitting behind his desk for way too long running his first startup, Matt knew that thousands of other young people needed the experience of travel. Matt went on to spend the next two and a half years scouting locations abroad and exploring the world from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, to Machu Picchu and Bali.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Article by MATT WILSOM,