At my super market there is a homeless woman who is selling a newspaper to earn just some money to get through the day. Although she really needs the money, she is not focusing on the transaction itself, but on building a relation with every single visitor of the supermarket. Everybody who enters (or is even in the neighborhood) of the super market receives a kind greeting form her.
Consistency is key
At first this may be quite annoying for may people, however after a while they notice that she is very consistent and sincere in this and are greeting her back. This way she’s building a relationship with people that visit the supermarket regularly. Still she is only greeting people and she is not trying to make a transaction: selling the newspaper so she gets money. She’s only holding the paper and greeting people.
This might seem weird, especially since she needs the money. However what she managed to realise after a few weeks is that frequent visitors know and appreciate her, with some of them not even taking the newspaper in return. So the outcome is that she gets the money she needs and since not everybody is taking a newspaper, she has the opportunity to get even more money than she’d originally had by just focusing on the transaction and selling as many papers as quickly as she could.
How does this relate to social media?
How does this story of this homeless woman relate to social media and communities in particulair? She is building a community of people who want to invest in her by building a relationship first and by not focusing on transactions. This may not give a huge return on investment in the first few weeks (or even months), however in the long run your ROI will increase and will be higher then if you just were focused on transactions. As the homeless woman shows, you can get even better value out of it, than when you were just selling your product or service. She gets donations, and therefore she can earn more since she has more newspapers left to sell.
What do we learn out of this story? If you want to build a community, you should focus on the relationship with the potential community members. Where are they, how can you reach them? Get to know them and get them to appreciate you. When building a community there is one thing you should keep in mind and that is that everything you do should at least create the beginning of a relationship.