Community & Collaboration
Hearkening back to our kick off piece on gaining visibility and optimizing for that visibility, this post is about growth; it also builds upon the necessity of listening to one’s audience because many of those skills are required because it is important to not see yourself as a lonely product review stuck on a deserted island. You are a part of a community, and you can lean on that community to improve and expand.
What is this community you speak of?
Let’s pretend you’re a travel writer. Been anywhere awesome lately? Care to share your itinerary with the world?
The travel world is big; really, really big. There are many very large companies that are extremely interested in hiring travel influencers to describe in detail a variety of travel-related items. While you may travel extensively, is it possible that you’re an expert on Munich museum attractions, where to get the best street tacos in Guadalajara, which are the hidden gem hotels in Jabalpur, and how to maximize airline points using mall gift cards? If you actually can do all that, I tip my invisible hat, but the point is to express how deep the industry is. The deeper an industry is, the more likely there is specialization, and therefore the more important it is that as you seek to become an expert in your specific niche, that you cultivate relationships with other tangential experts. This is the community that you need to become a part of, whether your motivations are selfish or altruistic.
Isn’t community another word for competitor?
In a way, yes. There’s a lot of different words for this. steve blank of Startup Grind would refer to such network relationships as frenemies, though I think in this case that might not be the best analogy because that relationship probably more closely mirrors being an embedded influencer on ongoing brand campaigns where one party is clearly working for another and both want to ensure that maximum value extraction takes place from their own personal perspectives. Instead, I would view your niche industry community to be more the coopetition; in this approach as described by Dan Brown in his post on creative couples. I’m not suggesting you get romantically involved, but if a wedding occurs because of Intellifluence I sure want to know about it so I can retweet your registry. Instead, it is about the “infinite game”, where the point is to keep moving the game forward for everyone in a way that ensures everyone succeeds at least enough to keep playing. You want to help your peers to keep playing the review game.
Why should you help potential competitors grow? I ran across something from Evan Carmichael that sums it up. I’m not a big Tony Robbins guy, but this is accurate. The theory goes that you are the average of your 5 closest peers. The better your peer group is doing, the better you’re doing.
How can you help your community?
If you’re convinced now that it is generally in your best interest to help the sum total of your niche industry, the next question falls to how to get that done. There’s quite a few ways:
- Lead flow — remember earlier when we talked about the difficulty of being an expert on everything travel-related? Let’s say you are really great at finding those street tacos, but don’t know much about India. Now, if you’re contacted by a travel brand that really needs to have itineraries built out for awesome India trips, the simple way you can assist the community is getting the right people connected to ensure the brand is taken care of, and that your peer expert with the India knowledge gets some additional work. This type of community benefit is also very obvious because the law of reciprocity comes into play; by helping someone, they are going to be more likely to help you in the future if a brand comes to them needing help with street taco content. Additionally, the brand you helped will remember you as the helpful travel influencer and think “maybe she knows everyone” and begins coming to you at the outset of all requests.
- Community protection — I hate that this is even a thing that I need to write about. Recently someone signed up as a brand and chose to indiscriminately message 600+ influencers with a pitch that caused some influencers to feel a sense of disgust and leave the network. Only through the quick action of John Clark ► of Yofreesamples.com were we made aware of the issue and were able to take action to boot the brand from the network within the hour of notification. When these things occur we can get negative reviews in response, but our promise is to protect the integrity of the network and ensure the community is not abused; it is worth the negative reviews to be able to point to us actually caring about the people we work with. It’s a long side note, but by reporting issues of abuse you are making the network more valuable to everyone that uses it; this extends to other networks and community forums where you interact — if someone or something is taking advantage of the community or one of its members, speak up so appropriate action can be taken.
- Collaboration — this is one of those mutual benefit scenarios, both altruistic and selfish. By suggesting the inclusion of other influencers on a project, you are potentially turning a simple campaign into a richer more immersive campaign. Multiple influencers means more than just the sum of the audience sizes, because through psychology of touchpoints, seeing a message multiple times creates a greater neuro imprint to a potential consumer. Also, chained campaigns are sexy to brands right now, as they more closely resemble traditional Madison Avenue ad campaigns. This also fits into lead flow; it isn’t just a matter of agreeing to work with someone else, but actively suggest it as a means to make the campaign more of a win.
Where are these mythical communities?
I’m not a travel influencer, but on some quick searching, I found a great number of places that travelers hang out — if you’re in the space, maybe consider them (or leave me a comment below with better ones so I can update this section):
Be sure to also join this community while you’re at it too. 🙂