How to Grow Your Online Community with Gratitude
Over the weekend, my husband Dan and I recorded a podcast together. We had a great discussion on how we have both seen our online businesses grow during the pandemic, and how gratitude has played an important role. You can listen to the podcast here: bit.ly/GrowYourOnlineCommunityWithGratitude
Dan has been building his online business as a video game streamer on Twitch TV since the end of January. Within a few months of starting his new business, we were in a global pandemic, and for many businesses this has led to a complete shut-down. Thankfully for Dan, more and more people are looking for ways to be entertained and connect online. Much our surprise - his business has doubled every month since he started. In our conversation we share what goes on behind the scenes while building a community and a business online. This blog is inspired by our podcast.
Here are Our Top 7 Ways to Grow Your Online Community:
Start with Gratitude – This is number one for both of us. When Dan first started streaming, he set the tone in his community. It is a place to have fun, where we treat each other with respect and kindness, and where everyone is welcome. Every time someone clicks on the ‘follow’ button while he is live streaming, he gives them a thank you and encourages the pack to welcome them. When someone donates to his channel or subscribes (these cost money), the whole pack celebrates with him as Dan shares his authentic gratitude. Three months in, he continues to share his gratitude for those who show up to watch, whether they donate financially or not. Dan says that when someone chooses to spend their time on his channel, he is even more thankful. Time is not an infinite commodity and he appreciates that they are choosing to spend time with him online.
For me, gratitude has been a part of how I do business for over a decade. I learned a lot about gratitude from my mentor, Leanne Jacobs (see below for more about the importance of a mentor). Long before I had photo cards and a business with gratitude, I would buy boxes of cards to send to new customers and long-time clients to share my gratitude. This is also one of the strategies I use for retaining the customers I have.
Be Authentic – For those who listen to my podcast or read my blog, you know that I choose to be authentic and share some of the more uncomfortable and difficult parts of my life with my audience. Dan does the same with his community and that is why I love him so much! He has become somewhat of a ‘celebrity’ in his online streaming community of Borderlands 3. When people are nervous or uncomfortable when they (virtually) meet him, he stays humble and reminds them that his is a flawed human being just like everyone else.
One of the compliments I hear his community say often is that Dan is a natural at streaming. When you are streaming live, it’s a lot like a performance. There is no rehearsal and there are going to be mistakes. The reason why Dan is a ‘natural’ at streaming is because he has done a lot of personal development to feel comfortable in his own skin. When he is streaming, he might be using the screen name Psychotic_Wolf – but the man onscreen is 100% Daniel Lawrence.
In our podcast interview we talk about being online versus in real life, and I challenge us to remember that being online IS real life. We can hide behind our online personas or we can choose to be authentic to who we are. What I have noticed is that when I am at my most vulnerable, that is when I connect with my community at a deeper level and receive a lot more comments and support.
Treat it like a Business – It is important to decide whether your online community is going to support a business or a hobby. With streaming, you can choose either or. I would say the same goes for my network marketing business, it is up to you whether it’s a business or a hobby. To grow your community more quickly and authentically, we recommend choosing which path you would like to take. You can always change your mind later, but it’s important for your community to know what your intentions are. Dan decided from the beginning that he would treat his streaming like a business. And the result is that it’s paying him like a business. He shows up on a regular schedule (Sun – Fri, 8 pm – midnight PST), he networks with his community, he keeps track of his stats, and he’s always looking for ways to grow and design things that are out-of-the-box.
Network Without Expectations – This is Dan’s number one tip. And I would agree that networking without expectations is a lesson that many business owners have yet to understand. Long before he started streaming, Dan was creating connections in the Borderlands 3 online community. He spent time watching other streamers (and still does!) and contributing in their chat. When he chose to start his stream, he had already created many great relationships with others in the community and they supported him immediately.
One of the more cringy things that happens when people are streaming is when another streamer shows up in their chat and self-promotes without permission. It’s kind of like when you’re at a live networking event and someone gives you’re their card without taking the time to create a connection first – and then asks for a referral! It feels really uncomfortable and you’re not likely to do business with them. The same goes for self-promotion in someone else’s stream. Dan’s strategy is to add value when he shows up in chat for another streamer. He answers questions from viewers, since sometimes the person streaming can’t always keep up with chat. He is there to support them and not for his own self-interest. One of my favorite quotes on networking is to “Dig your well before you are thirsty,” by Harvey Mackay. Create connections, add value and let go of expectations that your actions will be reciprocated.
Celebrate Milestones – One of the things Dan’s online community (the Wolf Pack) is known for is that they help others to start their journey as a streamer. When you are first starting, you need to hit certain numbers in order to become an Affiliate with TwitchTv and earn income. The Wolf Pack helps those who want to get started by following them and watching them stream (all free). Then when they help that person achieve their goal, they celebrate together! Working together to help a member of their community achieve their goal creates a way to bond as a pack. This really helps to cement online relationships.
I love to celebrate milestones for my community as well, by sharing different accomplishments and achievements for my network marketing tribe on Facebook. It’s great to see the community come together to celebrate each other. Creating an environment of collaboration rather than competition helps to keep your online community positive and supportive. That’s one thing both Dan and I have in common; we both cultivate and support positive communities online. Any business can choose to create that online environment by celebrating others and supporting their community.
Balance Education and Sales – No one likes to be sold to, yet we all like to buy. When growing your online community, it’s important to balance giving education and entertainment that is free of charge with asking for financial support or a purchase. When Dan is streaming, his focus is on the education and entertainment. Unlike many other streamers, he chooses not to share his financial goals publicly. Some streamers that have a live counter to show what their subscriber goal is for the month. That is one way to subtly ask for financial support. Dan chooses not to use any of these subtle ways to ask for money from his audience.
I find that this is a challenge for my online businesses. I share a lot of free content – my blog, newsletter, podcast, photos, photos with content …. and I also share what I am selling in both my Gratitude and USANA businesses. I often refer to something I learned from Gary Vaynerchuk, which is the concept of: Jab Jab Jab Right Hook. Before asking for the sale, give give give and give. Create value for your community so that they will choose to support you financially without hesitation.
My husband does a great job of creating value for his community and they support him financially without needed a right hook.
Choose a Mentor – Both Dan and I were inspired and supported by a mentor when we started our businesses. Dan created a connection (online) with another more experienced streamer, VanderForge. His real name is Jordan and within a few conversations, he insisted that Dan call him by his first name. Jordan is the one who encouraged Dan to get his stream going and he has been providing guidance ever since. They have forged a true friendship and it is a lot of fun to watch them play together live.
As I mentioned above, I was invited to start my network marketing business by a good friend, Leanne. She also become one of my business mentors and supported me through my uncomfortable growth in the early years in my business. We continue to share a deep connection after being in business together for over 14 years.
Dan and I are now both mentoring others who are starting their own online businesses. Being a mentor to others doesn’t require a lot of time or effort, it is simply about sharing what you have learned and inspiring them to invest in their dreams.
We would love to support you! What did you learn from the blog (or the podcast)? How can we help you to make the leap into growing your online business? Dan can be found as Psychotic_Wolf on TwitchTv and Twitter. You can also reply with a comment on this blog or connect with me on social media @juliecmboyer on most channels.