In a nutshell, a community project is an online event where a group of complementary business owners get together to publicly explore and discuss a topic relevant to their industry and audiences.
Community projects can take a number of different forms, but a typical project is delivered via email and has a clear theme, a diverse selection of voices, a set time-frame, and some sort of discussion forum for participants and attendees to take the conversation further.
The best and most effective community projects are beneficial for everyone involved - not just the host.
Here are a few examples
Why are community projects so valuable?
Community projects are a marketing tool, but in an authentic, ethical, values-driven way. They make great business sense, but they’re also great fun.
Community projects are one of the best ways I know to attract the people that you really want to be working with - your ideal clients. The dream clients who are fully committed, pay on time and feel like friends.
Audience building strategies such as Facebook ads are becoming both less effective and more expensive, and the worst thing is that after all that effort and money you’re only attracting cold subscribers.
With a community project, you are welcomed into people’s inboxes and social media feeds every day for a month! This means that by the end of the project, you have a group of people who know who you are, are emotionally invested in what you’re doing, and are ready to pay you.
Community projects are a fantastic way of turning your marketing into a valuable contribution, rather than just adding to the digital ‘noise’ we’re bombarded with every day. Plus, with the rise in social media monetisation and ever-changing algorithms, it’s getting increasingly expensive and difficult to get traction with social media and other forms of digital marketing. You know you need a better way to share your message.
People are craving more authentic, human connection from the brands they interact with, and running a community project gives you the opportunity to share your core values and integrity. Your project will allow you to demonstrate how much you care about your audience and industry, whilst also making your brand a community ‘hub’, increasing your ‘know, like and trust’ factor, and getting your business in front of a warm audience of people who share your values.
There is one caveat, though. These projects are amazing, but they’re not a magic bullet or a quick fix. If you don’t have your messaging right, or you’re struggling with other areas of your business, or you’re not prepared to nurture the leads you generate, then you might not be ready to run a project like this.
Community projects are perfect for when:
You’re sick of inauthentic ‘salesy’ marketing, and want a more human way to share your story
You want to grow your business and make more money in a meaningful way
You’re launching a new business or product (or considering launching a new product but you want to assess interest)
You want to expand your network and find like-minded people to collaborate with
You want to humanise your brand and share your passion, mission and values
You want to increase your visibility and brand/name recognition (even as an introvert)
You want to grow your mailing list with your ‘right people’ The ones who are potentially dream clients.
You want to position yourself as a leader in your field
You want to spread your message and start a movement
Is running a community project right for you?
Want to know more about running a community project and whether it’s the right approach for your business?
I have a secret to tell you - despite the fact that my whole business is about bringing people together, I am a massive introvert.
Whilst I love people, and connecting, and sharing ideas, I need a day or two alone in a darkened room after any big social event.
I am in no way an extrovert, or particularly gregarious, or a ‘group person’. I’m a lurker on social media, I hate joining in with group activities (I much prefer to lead), and parties are hellish unless I’m very close to most of the people there, or I’ve got a glass of wine (or three) inside me.
But… I adore these community projects. Instead of being draining, they lift you up and make you fall in love with humanity. They foster the sorts of connections that are DEEP, and IMPORTANT, and GLORIOUS.
They are the antithesis of small talk. And because they’re so structured, once your community project is up and running, it requires much less social interaction than you expect.
Some people like to use their community projects to kick start an ongoing community group (and they work brilliantly for that), but my personal preference is to view them more as an event, or like sending up a flare to illuminate what you’re up to in the world - as part of a part of a launch strategy, for example. You could also incorporate them into your marketing strategy once or twice a year to draw new people into your orbit.
It’s completely up to you. Isn’t that awesome?
Here are 23 reasons why running a community project is fantastic for your business:
1) Community projects position you as a leader in your industry
When you stand up and lift the lid off something in your industry, or start the conversations that need to be started, you show the world that you are not only an authority, but an original thinker.
2) They make you the 'hub' of a community
Being an instigator draws people to you. It makes you visible. And when people think of you in this way, you’re the first person who comes to mind when they need what you do.
3) They increase your list size
If you’re running an email-based project, then people need to give you their email address in order to take part. Then they have an opportunity to get to know you over the course of the project, which means they’re much more likely to sign up to your main mailing list once the project is over.
4) They increase your social media following
If you’re running the conversational aspect of your project on social media (on Instagram or in a Facebook group, for example), then people will most likely stick around after the project is over and continue to engage with you.
5) They give you a reason to connect more deeply and/or develop relationships with acquaintances and peers when you invite them to participate
One of the best ways to get to know people online is to invite them to something, and what better than a community project? Some of my most treasured friendships, collaborators and client relationships have come out of me inviting people to a community project.
6) They show the world what your values are and what you stand for
The theme of your community project is everything. It’s a real opportunity to have a damn opinion and to stand up for what you believe in, which will have the handy knock-on effect of drawing other people to you who believe in the same things.
7) They're a great way to start a revolution or a movement
Ooh, this is so good - I love it when people use their community projects in this way! If you want to take it a step further and make a real change in your industry (or the world), a community project will help rally the troops and kick start a powerful movement.
8) They introduce you to a wider audience
If you run a great project, it will get shared around the internet. Your participants will share it, their audiences will share it, your audience will share it. So many opportunities for new people to find you and fall in love with you.
9) They help your 'right' people (i.e. your ideal clients) to find you
When you get visible and share what you believe in, you attract your kindred spirits. It’s like lighting a beacon for the people who will just get it.
10) They're FUN
This is my favourite point of all. Running a community project is SO MUCH FUN. It’s an amazing experience and it will restore your faith in humanity. People are AMAZING!
11) They make you very visible in a very safe 'behind the scenes' sort of way
I get it, being visible on the internet is terrifying, and for many of us it can be totally paralysing - even if you know your business needs you to get out there. The wonderful thing about community projects is that there is safety in numbers - you’re leading the charge, but you’re surrounded by others who share your vision. It’s safe, and supportive, and just a lovely way to show up.
12) They help you to become a familiar face very quickly
You get to show up in people’s inboxes and social media feeds every day for a month, without it being spammy, or unwanted. For brand awareness and name recognition, that’s marketing gold.
13) They draw your ideal clients to you
If you’re clever, and pick the right theme and the right participants, your project will attract the people that you most want to serve. You won’t have to go looking for them, they’ll come right to your (virtual) door.
14) Because they're run in a limited time frame they don't burn you out
I’m an introvert too - I know what it’s like to get completely peopled out. One of the things I love about community projects is that you only need to be ‘on’ for a finite amount of time, and…
15) They're perfect for introverts and HSPs
Once your project is set up it will pretty much run itself. You’ll only need to spend 30-60 minutes a day popping into your conversation area and replying to comments etc. The peopling is shared out between everyone in the community - now, doesn’t that sound peaceful?
16) They're a great way to lead into a launch
Got a big launch coming up and need to gather an audience fast? Community project. Got an idea for a new offering and want to gauge interest? Community project. Booyah.
17) They're a great way to kick start or revive an online community such as a Facebook group
If your Facebook group is getting a little stale, or if you want to start a new one from scratch and get some members in quick, then a community project is a brilliant way to boost membership and engagement and get the conversation flowing again. However…
18) Even if you're not a group person, they're a great way to 'send up a flare' marketing-wise
I’m not a group person - I find it really hard to regularly engage with any kind of group. But you can use your community project in any way you see fit - why not just use it to build your mailing list, or reach out to people individually during or after the project to build relationships that way. Your project, your rules.
19) They can be used as marketing collateral ad infinitum
A community project provides content that can last forever. You can use it as a download on your website, or a lead magnet, or share bits of it as social media content, or blog posts. It can live on for as long as you like.
20) They can be turned into real books!
I’m a total nerd for real, tangible books, so I used Createspace to publish my community projects (with permission from my participants, of course) in actual book form, and they are gorgeous!
21) They're repeatable
You can do a community project with a new theme every year, or you can do the same community project with different participants. You can go deeper on a topic, or cover a different angle. There’s no limit.
22) They're ethical, people-focused, and a win-win for everyone involved
With the world of online marketing being a bit of a moral wasteland these days, populated by bots, funnels, targets and tripwires, a community project is a breath of fresh air, both for you and your audience. Plus, the methodology that I’ve developed over the years means that everyone involved benefits from the project, not just you. How often does that happen in online marketing?
23) They're valuable, important content that makes people pay attention, instead of ignorable marketing noise
When you create a community project, you create something that matters. It’s valuable, important and meaningful. The magic goes beyond just the content that produced, but the conversations and connections that the content facilitates. For those of you who hate the idea of creating content just for the sake of it, and worry about contributing to the overwhelming noise of the internet, this is HUGE.