How Do You Create a Community Around Your Company? Part One

By Posted in - E-Note on November 26th, 2013 0 Comments

What is Community?

Week two of our company humanization discussion dials in on building a community around your company. But how do you even go about that? Think back to a time when you were part of a group. This could be a sports team, a volunteer group, church, whatever. What was it about this place that resonated with you? What pulled you to participate? What emotional ties did you feel and why?

The still highly influential theory from psychologists Chavis and McMillian (1986) established the key elements of any community as the following:

  • Membership – This comprises established boundaries, emotional safety, a sense of belonging and identification, personal investment, and a common symbol system.
  • Influence – Not only do members feel as though the group is influencing them, but that they themselves are influencers.
  • Integration and fulfillment – Participation in the community leaves members feeling rewarded.
  • Shared emotional connection – According to Chavis and McMillian, this is the “definitive element for true community.” (1986, p.14)

Why is Establishing A Community Important?

Using modern technologies, social media offers consumers and companies a glimpse into the past (for those not in small towns or communities with this mindset). Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, among the rest, have flung opened the doors to a time when familiarity between a store clerk and a consumer was an integral part of both the shopping experience and the business culture.

Somewhere along the way, many businesses lost that personal touch. Whether this was a result of streamlining processes or the influence technology, one thing is for certain: the consumer hates it. People have grown tired of the automated recordings, faceless men in business suits, and feeling like just a number.

We want to talk to someone, we want to know more about that person(s), and we want our conversation to matter. Want a place at the influencers table? Build a community around your products and services that makes your customers part of the company. Give them a platform to discuss important matters. Pay attention to what they’re saying, and make it worthwhile that they do so.

How to Get Started?

We will expound on this in the next article, but until then, here’s a little homework. Revisit the key elements that Chavis and McMillian presented and figure out a way to incorporate each one. Make it personal to your company and overarching mission. Really think about what differentiates your organization and its mission from the rest. Figure out what it is about your company that keeps customers coming back. Ask them—they’d be happy to tell you.

Until next time,


Chavis, D.M., Hogge, J.H., McMillan, D.W., & Wandersman, A. (1986). Sense of community through Brunswick’s lens: A first look. Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 24-40.

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