The Best Kept Secret in Community Building

The Best Kept Secret in Community Building - Brass Tack ThinkingIt’s the thing to do.

Build a community, I mean.

Individuals want to do it. To support their project, get a job, find clients, to build their reputation, to sell their book, to connect with like minds and find new friends.

Companies and organizations want to do it. To find their advocates and fans, to find new talent, to raise money, to showcase their innovation, to improve their products, to connect their work to a greater cause or purpose or affinity group.

If you’re trying to build community, whether online or off, the very best thing you can do is the most analog, straightforward thing on earth.


Read and learn about everything you can get your hands on. Things in your industry, things not. Hobbies, interests, passions. History. Psychology. Pop culture. Food. Wine. Cars. Music.


Because a having a diverse base of knowledge and interest, a fully dimensional point of view that’s well-curated and dynamic, gives you a broad base of interest and always gives you a little spark that helps you find that first, all-important connection with someone new.

I don’t care what business you’re in, what products you sell, what services you provide.

If you can relate to people in their language, share a little something personal and interesting with each other, find a common ground that you can meet on, you’ll always have a cornerstone that can help you build an amazing, personal, and very human relationship.

“Being human” isn’t about co-opting and trying to mechanize human behaviors.

Being human means being a more interesting person, welcoming others’ interests, and being willing to share both with others. Whether you’re an individual doing your own thing or an individual representing a company, the same truth applies.

So pick up a new book this weekend. Or several. Read constantly. Read blogs and articles. Listen to podcasts (reading with your ears) Disagree. Find a new passion. Think critically. Discover something that you never knew.

But learn a little about a lot of things, and you’ll find that you always have something to share.

  • JayGilmore

    Exposing myself to new ideas and points of view has become the cornerstone of my personal and professional life. It’s incredibly important to expand and become the next better version of ourselves (HT to @RedHeadWriting). I’ve delved into things like entrepreneurship, buddhism, overcoming fear, marketing, content strategy, user experience and more. Some are new to me, others are areas I wish to dig deep with.

    Something you lightly touch on at in the end of your post and I needs to be highlighted is, “Think critically.” I think we often spend a lot of time devouring new information but sometimes forget to consider, reflect and relate that to our existing understandings and experiences. Not that you do not but that it’s a key element to our growth and developing wisdom. I certainly try to not just consume information but work to make sense of it and truly make it part of me.

  • Chad Butler

    Sound advice, Amber. Being well read gives you many things to not only think about, but to intelligently discuss.

    I like that you touch on “disagree” since being human not only is being interesting, welcoming of other’s interests, and willingness to share, but also that you may not always have the same point of view. Unfortunately, the art of debate has become somewhat lost in today’s culture where it is easy to hide behind an online persona and loose sight of decorum. Welcoming debate in an intelligent, well informed manner is something that contributes to the community as well.

    • JayGilmore


      Great point on debate. I think part of the loss of debate as a skill/art is that the media focuses on soundbites and you can not support a real argument through assertions alone.

      • Chad Butler

        Thanks Jay. That’s definitely part of it. And not only assertions, but often “tons” of hyperbole!

  • jessicamalnik

    Superb community building advice! I’d actually add onto that and say if there is something that you want to learn more about, take a class. With sites like Skillshare, Coursera and even Slideshare, it’s easier than ever to learn and develop a new skill or hobby.

    On a personal level, I have lost count of the number of times things I learned in the psychology and sociology classes I took years ago in college have helped me out as a community manager today.

  • writenow

    For me, reading is as important as eating. My body and my brain need refueling.

  • Ripe, Inc.

    Agree with all of the above but feel there is one critical element missing. Get out there and ask questions! It’s impossible to build anything by sitting in front of a computer all day, or by making another excuse to read another book instead of rolling up the sleeves and getting your hands dirty. Shake off the fear or reticence of meaningful face to face interaction. Ask questions, listen closely to the answers, and respond deliberatively and thoughtfully. Great things begin with a conversation.

  • Anika Davis

    Right Amber, Observing on individuals movement is the prevention of distasteful action. When building a community its all about your willingness to promote tactics that they can participate well and leverage it to the other. Its all about caring them and providing things that full their learning’s and solve their business pains and it’s all bout proper participation.