Unpopular Communities

Everyone wants to be liked. But maybe being liked by everyone isn't the best thing for your community. 

I recently read "The Power of Unpopular" by Erika Napoletano, the no holds barred brand strategist who makes a splash in the marketing world with her frank, uncensored advice. While the advice in her book is primarily aimed at brands and companies, I found that much of the wisdom could easily be applied to online community. Here are my favorite takeaways for cultivating an "unpopular" community:

Get in the pool with the haters.

In customer support communities, a large amount of negativity is common. Many companies are hesitant to start a community or even cultivate one through social media in fear of this backlash. Erika thinks they're making a big mistake. "You screwed up, here's why" can be the best kind of customer feedback. Even a person who's upset clearly has a lot of passion about your company - if they didn't, they wouldn't bother joining/commenting/emailing, etc. The same goes for any community that encounters an upset member. The key is in figuring out what people are asking for in between their need to blow off steam.

What's your story?

Napoletano describes a brand's "secret sauce" as something in particular that attracts one group and possibly repels another. Your community needs a secret sauce, too. You have to make it clear to your prospective community members who your community, why you're different and, most importantly, why people should care. There are an abundance of running communities but the Zombies, Run! community has logged over 11 million kilometers in only a year and a half because they've brought a unique story to their community. 

The Recipe for Unpopularity

Erika suggests a five ingredient recipe for unpopular brands: Personality, Approachability, Sharability, Scalability, Profitability. Every ingredient is just as vital to a successful community. 
Personality - If your community is dry and bland, members won't develop an attachment to it. 
Approachability - Making your moderator team accessible, friendly, and eager to welcome new members means members will feel like they've found a place where they belong. 
Sharability - You want your community to be a place that people are excited and proud to invite like-minded friends to join. 
Scalability - From the early days of your community, make sure to keep an eye out for members that would be great additions to the moderator team; if all goes well, you might need them one day. 
Profitability - Even if you're not creating a community for the express purpose of making money, you are investing in it - whether it's money on a platform or hosting, or just the time that you put into making the community great. You need to be getting something in return, at the very least the leadership experience it will bring you and satisfaction at bringing people together. 
How are you embracing or encouraging the unpopularity of your community? 
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