If someone told me ten years ago that I would be working at a startup that is creating community building tools for the blockchain/crypto space I would have thought you were crazy. To be fair, Bitcoin would have only been nine months old at that point. But, me ten years ago would also say, “WTF are community building tools?”. Fast forward to 2019 and “Community” and “Blockchain” are arguably two of the biggest buzzwords currently in tech.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency are obviously two words that most people with a pulse and internet connection are aware of now, but what is community? Most people can tell you what it is at its base level, but those same people will most likely have difficulty explaining its value. The only reason we exist as a species is because of cooperation and our desire to connect with one another. Yet, cultural changes and new technologies allow for more and more people to feel isolated and lonely more often. The epidemic of loneliness is upon us, and it is not something to ignore. One study concluded that loneliness is just as damaging to an individual’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Nevertheless, societal norms are pushing us further and further to a path of loneliness. As you grow, you are expected to become more and more isolated from individuals. You are expected to move away from your parents. Eventually, you are expected to live alone, without roommates. Society tells you to move to a place you have no connection to, simply because you got a job that makes more money. Since I mentioned jobs… those are becoming more isolated too. But what can we do to stop it?
Changing a massive societal shift sounds like a daunting task and near impossible. So… what can we do to stop it?! Well… the current answer coming from Silicon Valley is to create an entire new industry centered around community. And it’s working. Tech companies and many other forward leaning organizations have realized the value of community, and are doing everything they can to foster a sense of community around their products, brands, and services. Companies have come to understand that people want more out of the things they purchase than just the product or service. They want a sense of belonging, they want to be apart of something bigger than themselves, they want to contribute, and they want to feel heard.
Now this all sounds great, but why would companies put the time and effort into doing something like this? Well, it’s simple, companies are now seeing a huge return on investment from the communities they are building. By building community, companies build brand evangelism, they receive feedback they can trust, they can take advantage of user generated content, and they can acquire more customers through the communities they create. But it is also not just a numbers game. Times are changing, and people are more willing, especially millennials and younger generations, to stand for something when making purchases as well as choosing their next job. People want to see a very authentic human element at companies, and they want to support and work for companies that they believe are doing good in this world. And fostering community plays a huge role in that.
I have been building communities around tech platforms since 2017. In 2017, my boss at the time was probably one of maybe ten people in the world with the job title “Global Head of Community”, but that has most definitely changed. More and more companies, even Fortune 500 companies, are creating and growing their own community teams. Last week, I had the privilege of going to the 2019 CMX Summit, which is the largest and one of the few conferences for community builders. Companies like Salesforce, Facebook, Dropbox, and Lyft were all represented at this summit and over 1000 people attended, which is more than double the attendance two years ago. In a time where divisive bullshit is most of what you hear on the news, the talks were a breath of fresh air, especially considering the fact that they were coming from representatives of billion dollar companies. Granted I do spend the majority of my day bringing people together in a quality way, but it is nice to hear it coming from people who are making five times my salary. I left the conference with plenty of takeaways, but the most resounding was that the community industry is here to stay, and community strategy will become a main focus for companies in the next decade. I guess getting that degree in political science wasn’t such a stupid decision after all.
We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.