The Power of Building a Community

September 14, 2009

There are few things as powerful in this world as when people come together as a community to make something happen.People's mandala - 12 hands

In it’s simplest form, a community is defined as a unified body of individuals.  In it’s most powerful, it is a force that can accomplish  almost any goal.

In the world of business, our professional communities are where we go to exchange ideas, to study, to learn, and  to bond together to address major issues.

Our customer communities can give us insight into how our products work,or how they should.  If we take the time to listen, user communities can light the way along the path to innovation.

Without community there can be no innovation.  It is our community that accepts our invention, validates it, accepts it and adopts it.  Then and only then is innovation truly real.

But the power of community is not limited to business – it is around us in every corner of our lives.  Community can be family. For many it is the congregation of those who share beliefs and faith in something greater than themselves.

And today, in our evolving technology world, we are seeing new communities emerge across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, connecting people – many who have never met or may never meet in real life -but yet hold common interests, form bonds, and support each other in a myriad of ways.

Sometimes community relationships last a life time, and in others they form and disband quickly after the need or project has has passed.  But while the community exists, it can be a powerful force and a source of inspiration.

For me, great examples of the power of what communities can do are all around.  Here are just a few:

The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation

OTEF started when Francine Hardaway set out on a mission to help at risk populations find self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship.  She reached out to her community of friends and to the greater community of entrepreneurs for help.  Projects like this need funding – so in the true spirit of entrepreneurs – they created a product and took it to the marketplace.  In this case that product was the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conferences.  Each year entrepreneurs gather to hear ideas from others on what it takes to build a community, to launch businesses, and to realize goals.  ALL of the speakers donate  their time and talents, and ALL of the conference proceeds go to support OTEF’s mission.  Now going into it’s fourth year, entrepreneurial leaders like Michael Gerber, Pat Sullivan, Gary Vaynerchuck, Robert Scoble, and Matt Mullenwig have shared the stage with over 100 local CEOS, all sharing ideas while supporting OTEF in making a difference.

#BeOriginal

Some late night musings, evolved into a blog post on how to be original.  With an  idea that it would be fun to share original ideas with friends in a place where we could all find them,  I blogged it as Why #BeOriginal to let my friends know.  Over time a community formed across the broader Twitter community made up of people who love to share their own ideas with others.  Just look at all the insights that have been shared to date and with more and more coming every day.  Another friend helped set up a TWUB so we could make the sharing even easier.

Communities lend a hand

Not long ago, a friend  experienced one of the deepest of tragedies – the loss of his son at a time when on top of the emotional burden, the financial one was more that he could handle.   Members of his community came together – not just to offer friendship –  but to offer dollars to help with the funeral expenses.  The call went out across Twitter and Facebook, and the community responded.

But it is not just in times of sorrow.  Communities can gather to celebrate wonderful events, the birth of a child, an anniversary, or a wedding.

It was a converging of communities that inspired this blog post.

I read a story, written by a young Mom, that I had come to know through our exchanges on BloggersBase.  Her name is Kathryn and she writes as Kaytii or RMS Snowdrop.  On   9/11 she shared a story – Open Your Hearts to a Stranger. In it she told the story of a young couple who were planning to get married.    They had two other special people in their lives – their best man and maid of honor.  The couple wanted to share their joy and special day with these two important people.

Then came the news that the best man would be deploying to Afghanistan.  To have him at the wedding, they would have to move up the date by almost a year!  Financially, they were not ready.  Good friends decided to help.  Through online communities, people have come together to offer little things, small donations of money, a topper for the wedding cake, help with flowers, and simple things to help make the young couple’s dream come true.  The wonder of it is that many of these people have never met each other, and maybe never will.

But together they are a community – people bonding together at a place in time – to make a  difference.

I think I like that definition of community best of all.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Author’s Note:  After reading’s Kaytii’s story about Shauna and Derrick, I sent her a tweet with my phone number and suggested we talk.  We got together on the phone and shared ideas on how we could help make a dream come true.  One of the ideas was to share her message with my community – adding it to hers.  And that is what I just did.

Oh, and I also DID make a contribution to the wedding fund.  If you would like to share in a little piece of the community that is trying to grant a very simple wish – here is the link.


Overcoming Challenges…Getting back Up

April 17, 2009

Have you fallen lately?  Been knocked off your feet?  Are you facing a challenge through no fault of your own?  Is it tempting to feel sorry for yourself, to think that times are too hard, to just give up? 

My old friend and mentor Don Sweet sent me this video last week.  It really struck a chord and got me thinking.

After you’ve watched this video – its hard to be negative or give up.  Few face challenges on a daily basis that are anything like this.  If Nick Vujicic can get back up and finish strong – how can we ever stop trying with the challenges we face.

We’ve seen this week that dreams can come true.  Just look at how the world has embraced Susan Boyle, a woman who lives in a little Scottish village, definitely does not look like the typical ‘superstar’ and unlike Madonna – Susan’s never even been kissed.  But she pursued her dream of being a singer.  Her dream took her to Britain’s Got Talent…that took her to You Tube where close to 20 MILLION people have watched her WOW the judges and touch our hearts with her incredible voice, and now she takes the next steps and gets ready to take her place on a larger stage.  See the newest videos on Today for more. 

As a make my way around the community, I meet with lots of Arizonans.  People who are looking for new jobs, who are struggling to meet payroll, or are facing other challenges in their lives or in their businesses.    But what gives me hope is the resilience and determination I hear when we sit down and talk.  Whether it’s over the phone for in a local coffee shop, I hear stories of people working together to make a difference, sharing ideas, asking questions, and finding answers and solutions to challenges.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Allan Starr started a new discussion forum on Linked In called Marketing Partners Memos.  An established business leader and marketing expert, Allan asked his friends questions about things like SEO and reaching customers – you’ll find of tips and advice from a number of folks in the Valley –  great ideas.
  • I am NOT a Social Media expert.  But I have friends that are.  They have helped me understand how to effectively use social Media as a tool for starting conversations.  When I put out a post on it this week, it spread like wild fire.  If you missed it and need some tips – see the ones I got from the experts and examples you can use as models at A Busy Person’s Tool Kit for Social Media.
  • For fun, I shared a quote from Albert Einstein on Facebook – “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. ”   This quote sparked such a great discussion about the power or asking questions and the importance of collaboration and partnering that I moved it to the blog so that people can keep the conversation going in an open forum.  You can join the conversation too at Question of the Day – How can I  help you?
  • Tax Day – A crowd gathered at the Capitol to share their feelings on the state of the economy, government and taxation.  I chose to skip that particular gathering.  🙂  But if you want a flavor for the issues and answers around the question at the state level see the posts  Opportunity Springs Up and Doing the Right Things in Arizona.
  • Jeremiah Trnka’s new Arizona Edition of The Performance Magazine launches next week.  Wednesday night he introduced me to some of his friends at CEO Space and we got a sneak peak.  Keep an eye out for this new publication full of great business ideas from leaders from around the country and Valley experts too.
  • Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode Partners sent me a note with and introduction to Jo Ellen McNamara, Executive Director of the West Mesa Community Development Corporation.  We met for breakfast at Chompie’s yesterday to share ideas.  What a great addition to our Economic Development community.  Jo Ellen is very experienced and is doing exciting things in the East Valley.  We could have exchanged ideas all morning!  I look forward to working with her in the future.

So, the next time life knock you down, pick yourself up.  Think of the inspiration of a Nick Vujicic or a Susan Boyle.  Find a dream – and some friends and colleagues to partner with – and go for it!

Stay Tuned…

– Joan Koerber-Walker


A Busy Person’s Toolkit for Social Media

April 14, 2009

social media bible

Are all the choices and options for social media making you dizzy? As a business person are you wondering if social media is a useful tool or a productivity disaster as employees or you personally ‘waste’ time on line? As a job seeker, are you looking at social media as an answer to all of you problems.  As a parent are you concerned about who your kids are connecting with and why?

With all of the choices, opinions, strategies, and continuous change – who wouldn’t be dizzy!

OK, here comes the BIG disclaimer.  I am NOT a social media expert.  I do not claim to be, do not want to be, and probably never will be.  What I am is a business owner and executive who never has enough time.  So I use technology for what is is, a tool.

Every tool must have a purpose, and in the case of social media, its purpose is to start and continue conversations.  Conversations are what I am good at. Conversations identify issues, uncover strategies for change, bring us up to date information, and keep us connected. 

So lucky for me, I have friends and associates who ARE experts.  I started a conversation with them and they helped me put together a toolkit that accomplishes what I need to do and then looked over my shoulder to make sure I did not mess it up.

In my case, my tool kit looks like this:

Purpose Tool/Profile
Connect with Business Contacts and Showcase Qualifications Linked In
Online Resume so Search Firms and Companies can Hire Me Linked In  and Bright Fuse
Sharing information and making updates to multiple profiles by cross linking accounts*.  One for business info, one for friends.  Note – never sell to friends if you want to keep them connected. Personal Twitter
Company Twitter
Online address book and place to share and receive updates from business associates on business interests and activity Plaxo
Stay connected with Friends – share info, ideas, updates, and fun stuff.  Facebook
Share more detailed thoughts and ideas, build your brand, have longer conversations, publish articles on line, comment on other peoples ‘conversations’. Blog TypePad
Blog WordPress
Share Videos of yourself or others making a difference You Tube
*  Time Saving Tip – Set up a Business Twitter account and a Personal Twitter Account.  Connect your Linked In, Plaxo, Facebook, etc. to the appropriate RSS feed.  Then from HootSuite you can access both accounts – post updates – scan for news, replies, etc. and do it all quickly from one dashboard. You can even schedule your Tweets so it looks like you are always engaged even when your busy elsewhere. 🙂 HootSuite.com
*  Time Saving Tip – News Sites Consolidate information and so do some powerful Tweeters, newspapers, and magazines.  AllTop let’s you pick the blog sites and publishers that you want to watch and puts them all on one page.  Examples of Major Tweeters also provided. AllTop and tweeters: @GuyKawasaki, @Time, @WSJ, @NYTimes, @PhxPublisher, @AZBizReporter

So now that you have had a peek inside my Social Media Tool Kit, think about what you want to have in yours.  Here are some great resources to help you decide what tools are right for you…

Want a manual?  The Social Media Bible by Lon Safko and David K. Brake.  (John Wiley and Sons) releases May 4, 2009 and is the most complete guide on the subject ever published.  It’s a complete reference with 840 pages!   Don’t worry, it’s well indexed so you can find what you need.  I just ordered my copy on line for early delivery on Amazon.com (<$20) and saved myself a trip to the book store…

Want a Symposium:  Check out the  CABIT Symposium (coming up April 23 and April 24th at ASU for the all the latest in Collaboration from Social Media to Cloud Computing.

Want a Class?  Jennifer Maggiore owns a firm specializing in development and management of Social Media campaigns.  Her experience includes both the private and non-profit sectors for small businesses and national organizations.  Jenn is offering hands-on classes to help you get started in the ASBA Computer Lab this month.

Want a Club?  Check out the Social Media Club Phoenix  founded by local social media icon Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode Partners  

Want a tutor? Local Experts like Steven Groves at Steven Groves.com and Dave Barnhart of Business Blogging Pros might be just what you need.

Want a complete end to end corporate social media solution?  No Worries.  Reach out to Lisa Ellis at Metro Studios or Ben Smith at The Lavidge Company and they’ll fix you right up.

Ok – one last gasp on the subject.  How long does all this stuff take?  Well,  learning the ropes and the initial set up takes some doing, but like a tool chest you can add pieces one at a time.  Once you have your tool kit, just slot some social media time in your schedule.  An hour in the morning (to read what’s happening in world and post a few comments) and a half hour at night to check back in does the trick for me.  I wish I could get through my emails half as fast.  🙂

Stay Tuned…

– Joan Koerber-Walker