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We love communities: How you become successful with your online community.

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.

On 24 September 2019 my book We love communities will be published (in Dutch). Including the We love communities 10-step plan, many example cases and an online course. This can already be ordered via Managementboek.nl

The idea for this book came about quite suddenly. After all, it had not been my dream for years to write a book about online communities. In fact, for a very long time I didn’t even realize that this was my expertise. I only realized that when several people asked me how to do that, set up a successful online community. They asked me if I could give a master class to help them with that. Only when I received this type of requests almost weekly, I did realize that there was no manual yet, but that there was a need for it. That’s why I wrote this book. My goal was to create a practical manual that you can start using right away. The summary of the book can therefore also be downloaded at: www.welovecommunities.com.

The book is interesting for people who want to start a community, but also for advanced community leaders who want to know how others activate their community. You can learn from the many examples, or you can only read the theory.

Of course you don’t just write a book about online communities all by yourself. You do this together with a community of community leaders to give as much value as possible. That is why I combined my own experience with a lot of research and with interviews with 36 experts who are good at their job and also know a lot about communities. Experts who shared their successes, but also their pitfalls and secrets with me. Experts from small communities to create a social movement, versus experts from mega communities with more than 500,000 members. Young talent versus the established order. Women and men. Different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, sexual preferences, health, et cetera. People who at first sight are very diverse, but who have a common denominator: their passion for communities. An inclusive attitude. Because communities connect people. Everyone.

These community leaders helped with the creation of this book: Anneli Rispens, Antoinette Hoes, Ashlee Janelle Danso, Charlene Jozefzoon, Christiana Courtright, Dan Fennessy, Danielle Stecher, Debbie Reber, Dieuwke Hoogland, Flavia Anghel, Frank Del Gatto, Frank Meeuwsen , Igor Beuker, Janneke van Heugten, Job Slijkhuis, Joshua van Wijgerden, Joyce Heere, Kapi Alem, Kees Diamant, Kevin De Randamie, Kirsten Wagenaar, Laureen Doesburg, Lenneke Speelman, Maureen Powel, Myra de Wildt, Nathalie Peters, Paul Verhulst, Penny Clayton, Robin Ramos, Sanne Walvisch, Sonja Loth, Susanne van Nierop, Tonny Loorbach, Veronique Prins, Vivian Opsteegh and Youri Meuleman. I have incorporated the interviews into the book in the form of quotes. You can watch their video interviews on www.welovecommunities.nl. Highly recommended, because you also see the person and the story behind that successful community! Most of them are in Dutch, but some experts shared their story in English too.

With We love communities, I would like to help as many people as possible to be successful with their community. With online training, strategy sessions, masterclasses and of course the book, I help others to set up and grow their online community. That is what I love doing the most.

More and more communities are shifting from offline to online. When I talk about communities, I usually mean online communities. Which can of course also come together perfectly offline. Why? Because I know from experience that it works. Because you can do what you like doing most while leveraging communities and at the same time help people and become super successful. Together we achieve more. Invest in the power of online communities!

Summary We love communities:

Online communities are the big secret behind the growth and success of many companies and social movements. The age-old way to create connectedness, solidarity and trust is also the ideal way to build and maintain online relationships and get to know target groups well in an authentic and appealing way.

Maartje Blijleven cracked the code and shows step-by-step how to start a community and bring it to fruition. She gives inspiring practical examples and reveals the tricks of the trade. In interviews, 36 well-known community experts reveal their tips and tricks, with which you turn strangers into fans and get the visibility and expert status you deserve as a community leader. A book for everyone who has a good idea for a community. We love communities is the step-by-step key to online success for anyone with a passion!

Maartje Blijleven is a digital community expert and has been building successful online communities for two decades, including her work for Endemol, KLM, National Postcode Lottery, Heineken, Peugeot and Schiphol. As a co-founder of the communities IncludeNow. & WomenTalkTech, she knows how to start and grow a community. With We love communities, she helps enterprising professionals to be successful with their own online community: for different companies, people and purposes. She believes there is a suitable online community for everyone of people who share the same pain, passion or ambition. In this individualized society, people need to belong.

Maartje is much in demand as a keynote speaker and regularly appears in the media as a digital community expert. With online training, 1: 1 strategy sessions, master classes and her book, she shows people step-by-step how to start a community and bring it to fruition. In addition, she did research and interviewed 36 of the best community experts from the Netherlands and abroad. Her book will be published on 24 September. Including the We love communities 10-step plan, many example cases and an online course. This can already be ordered via Managementboek.nl

Want to know more? Go to my website about online communities: www.welovecommunities.com.

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