By nature we like to join a group of like-minded people. And nowadays, with the advent of the internet and social media, we can connect with people from all over the world. We do that en masse. At the same time, in this digital world we seem to have lost the ability to make real and genuine connections. And we can feel lonely as a result. Because the need to join a group that remains. We like to surround ourselves with other people, with groups. It’s in our DNA. The more digital we become, the more aware we must be that we need these genuine connections to live, rather than survive.
Partly due to a strong secularization in the last decades, more and more people in our individualized society feel the need to belong. This role is increasingly shifting to (niche) communities. In a community, togetherness and collective experiences are central. You share information and experiences with like-minded people on a subject that you are passionate about. In addition, you can also leverage the community to achieve your business goals.
My passion for creating communities, and how that can be so easy and so effective with the right step-by-step plan, is the reason why I have made my expertise of it.
When I talk about communities, I mean a group of people with a common passion or care who would like to connect with people with the same passion or care. That can be local or (inter) national. Just where that connection is desperately needed. As long as you have a common concern, passion or common goal and you enjoy connecting with others who share the same. And want to enter into a dialogue about that. Together you achieve more, that’s the power of communities.
There are quite a few people who are part of a community without being aware of it. Almost every group of people is a community. For example the WhatsApp group with your soccer team. Or a Facebook group like Amsterdam Yard sale, where you offer second-hand items. Or a website with a forum where you regularly log in. Tweakers for example. Or those #fitgirls you follow on Instagram. Just as there is a suitable book or film for everyone, there is also a suitable community for everyone.
You can build a community around:
- Your brand, product or service: for more fans, customers and sales.
- Your organization internally: a closer bond between colleagues, more knowledge sharing and better results.
- A good cause or non-profit organization: together you are stronger and you can achieve more.
- An association or foundation: to connect members and to share knowledge.
- Your passion, as a hobbyist, talking to others about your favorite activity and exchanging tips and tricks.
- As an influencer: gather a community of fans around you.
- Your company: learn how you can best reach your ideal customer and how to convert prospects into real customers and fans.
- Another nice idea that does not fall under the above points.
I have been a community starter all my life: at school, in the neighborhood, at work. As a digital consultant I have seen up close that the rise of online communities is taking over the power of offline communities and multiplying that by ten, or even a hundred or a thousand. They are an enrichment of the offline communities limited in time and place. Because through online communities we come into contact with everyone with whom we have a connection. And wherever we really need that connection. You don’t necessarily have to have like-minded people in your immediate environment, you can find them all over the world via the internet!
That is why I have, sometimes even unknowingly, built my entire career communities. But I have only seen the potential of communities in recent years: they allow companies to grow in a way that resonates in one of our favorite buzz words of the moment: authenticity. Nowadays, every brand strives for this, because younger generations in particular find it important. And because it is necessary to remain relevant.
I started my career in 2000 at Endemol, with the Big Diet TV show. I then worked on the digital community to support people who, like the tv-program participants, wanted to lose weight. After that I set up and expanded online communities for many companies. For example for KLM in 2006. Together with a small team I launched one of the first business online communities in the Netherlands: KLM Club China. Set up to connect business travelers between the Netherlands and China in a meaningful way. In 2009 I set up an online gaming community for the National Postcode Lottery: it went from 0 to 600,000 members. And for Schiphol I activated the internal community in 2017 to get employees on board for a digital transformation and to be able to implement it successfully.
In recent years I have felt the need to work with other communities. Smaller, targeted communities of like-minded people, who together strive for change. Partly for this reason, I co-founded two communities that I believe in: In 2016, IncludeNow., A community that brings the creative industry together to promote diversity and inclusion. And then WomenTalkTech, to bring women who want to speak together at digital and innovation conferences. To support each other, to share speaking assignments, and to put them in contact with programmers and event organizers.