The other day I was at home watching the Ellen Degeneres show. The segment I saw was an interview with a single mom who was going through the struggles of raising two daughters on her own. Her financial struggles lead her to sacrifice everything for her daughters. Her story went on to talk about how old and beat up her car was. She actually couldn’t turn her steering wheel left or else the car would completely die. So what does Ellen do, surprises her with a brand new car! The family went ballistic and it made me think about a couple things.
First, the hilarious SNL parody of Oprah’s favorite things:
(better quality http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3798047001/)
Second, was the importance of building superfans and amazing communities with your startups.
The one thing that talk shows like Oprah and Ellen kick tech startups asses in is the community development aspect of a business. The big reason, they are constantly engaging with their audiences. They are having real conversations with them, building real relationships and genuinely helping them out along the way. They aren’t stuck behind a computer screen.
Have you ever seen Groupon users look like this when they received a 50% off daily deal? I don’t think so… Talk shows like Oprah and Ellen create these over dramatic, outrageous, and emotional reactions from their audiences all the time. The point is, they are truly connecting and you aren’t.
The value here is that a strong community will always have your back. Think of your best friend, for example. When times are rough, you know you can always count on your best friend to be there. Wouldn’t you want that same support from your customers if your business hit rough times? When competitors and copy cats replicate your business model, don’t you want superfans to take a strong stand and support your business over others?
Here are three things to think about when building your community:
1. Be genuine
You know how you get that feeling when someone is doing something for you because they are looking for something more in return? That’s a shitty feeling right? You probably won’t go out of your way to do something back for that person. It’s the same idea when engaging with your customers, and trust me, they can easily read your sincerity. Building a community starts with genuine relationships. Narayanan Krishnan, one of the top 10 CNN heroes, is a true inspiration to how all humans should genuinely give. If startups could connect this sense of emotional nutrition with their business, their communities would grow much larger.
2. Be you
Look back at emails with customers and ask, “Is this how I would talk to my friends?” You are looking to identify with people, not show you are superior to them. Business doesn’t always have to be so serious.
At the Ellen show, she starts off her show by dancing with her audience. Watch this video and you can see how honest and real her community is. If your audience can act like this with complete strangers, you are on the right track towards building an amazing community. (@1:28 it starts getting really good)
3. Create platforms for communication/sharing
A tribe isn’t a tribe without some way of communication amongst its members. Leverage technology and create dialogue. This will allow for critiques, stories and ideas to arise that engage your community more.
So… take notes from talk shows like Ellen and Oprah. If you can create a genuine community, that’s the only barrier to entry you will need.