Last week I attended an incredible multi-disciplinary conference on the topic of "community" called The Vine. From the perspective of residential community developer John L. Knott, Jr. of the Noisette Company to that of fiction author/english tutoring nonprofit founder Dave Eggers...
...and that of renowned organizational expert Margaret Wheatley, among many others, we audience participants got fresh inspiration (and lots of motivation) on how to nurture and develop the connecting relationships of humans.
Meg Wheatley, in particular, got me thinking, when she mentioned networks of interdependence (which is something that comes naturally to all species but humans -- interestingly) and how many things exist that connect below the surface or our radar of awareness.
In a similar way, it can only make sense to trust the process -- not get overly caught up in the visible/rational when you are serving a web-thinking woman's brain. Try to imagine just how many decision influencers exist in her world (in terms of consumer purchases or otherwise) that no one can see. As Wheatley put it:
"We can't prepare for the unknown future, but we can prepare our relationships."
Though Wheatley's work is absolutely not about marketing, her ideas can be applied to more effectively create the environment/happenstance for community with your customers: Have you had the conversations with your community members so that you might really understand what's going on below the surface - such as, who they are connecting with and why? Are you preparing and building trust relationships long before "the future" arrives?
There is no step-by-step process or easy answer for building community with and around your customers. There are no easy demographic profile formulas for making it occur either.
Rather, brands should be looking to find a unique and passion-based "universal mindset" (to quote another Vine speaker, Ken Losch) in their marketplace, and focus in on serving that. Word will get around and like-minded folks looking to connect will find you.