Goals can either be direct or enduring.
Maybe it’s your goal to create a course. That’s a direct goal with a finish date.
It might also be your goal to foster a community around that course. That’s an enduring goal, because communities last for an extended, undefined amount of time.
In even more enduring terms, maybe it’s your goal to generate social impact with your course. To create lasting social impact, you need a special kind of community that supports your cause.
This is what we call an Impact Warrior community.
This community is initially based on your course or content, and then it instantly multiplies its purpose. The people who join that community are there to connect with like-minded people. They feel progressively more uplifted as they meet others like them.
They relate to others who share their struggles and aspirations.
They celebrate wins together.
They ask for help and share advice.
The stronger and more connected this impact warrior community feels, the more each member becomes charged with positive energy to take on the social causes you care about. The content you teach then is deftly put into action by the impact warriors who feel genuine connection and energy.
This sounds pretty great, and it absolutely can be. But how can you use your coaching or course as a launchpad?
Social causes and your coaching or course
Making money isn’t the only thing on your mind. If you coach or create online courses, you also think about the impact your content will have on others. The purpose of everything you do in business is driven by that impact.
The effect you have on individuals is the microcosm of your bigger priorities, too. Social impact, or the positive impact of business activity on the well-being of a community, can be turbocharged by a community of impact warriors who share your values.
If you’ve ever thought about building a community or “tribe” around your brand, your instincts are good. Humans are naturally drawn to look for like-minded people. You could be the person to provide that connection.
When starting your own impact warrior community, remember that people are not just joining for the content you present. It’s not all about you. They’re also drawn in as a product of that innate desire for community, relatability, and validation.
How do you build an impact warrior community?
Before you start changing lives with your social impact plans, you need a strategy to create the kind of impact warrior community that will serve that purpose.
As much as it’s our natural instinct to look for like-minded connections, social media and other online channels have reminded us of other natural instincts that could hurt our efforts. Specifically, as evidenced by comments with constant negativity, know-it-all-ism, and personal attacks, the internet can bring out the worst in some.
Having a strategy in place will foster the kind of supportive community you really want to create, giving community members instant access to the benefits they’re after while creating a fertile ground for enduring social impact. It will also help you minimize the corrosive BS.
Never lose sight of your end goal. You want to uplift your cause by uplifting individual community members. Your “tribe” of impact warriors will then have a genuine feeling of connection for all they have in common.
Step 0: Consider the channel
This step is your ground zero. It’s important to understand the nature of online communication and the channels you have at your disposal so you can use the chosen channel properly.
Online discussion has become a vital part of communication, as much for business as for recreation…and everything in between.
Not all channels were created equally, though, when it comes to deep discussion.
Take a webinar versus a social network, for instance. On social networks, most communication happens by way of comment trees (or “threads”), which are asynchronous. This means people can comment and reply whenever they log on.
A webinar, in contrast, favors synchronous communication. This means people are interacting in real-time, or close to it. This fosters real discussion, not just “chat,” because the time between comment and reply has a direct impact on how engaged users are.
(Spoiler alert: the more instantaneous the reply, the more engaged users remain.)
Take this into consideration when deciding what platform to create your impact warrior community on.
Step 1: Re-articulate your company’s purpose
Businesses were traditionally designed to generate revenue for stakeholders, whether that was a sole proprietorship or thousands of stockholders.
Given the current social and environmental landscape, however, expectations have started to change.
In comes the conscientious business of the new century who recognizes the global impact of the way they do business. As it turns out, commerce has a much faster impact on society than individual actions.
Consumers are more aware of this today, too. Across the board, consumers are favoring brands and products that have a moral backbone. Brand “personality” has become a company’s greatest asset, especially if that “personality” cares about the world around us.
This is your chance to revisit your purpose as a company. Your purpose is your reason to exist. If there isn’t already, add a social element to that purpose. Without that element, your impact tribe will forever be trapped under a glass ceiling of too much “talk” without the “walk.”
Step 2: Define your impact warrior community
Now you’re ready to define the impact warrior community that you envision. Describe the target member you want to reach. Much like target avatars for your business, this clarifies who your impact community is for.
The biggest part of defining your impact warrior brand is achieved by giving the brand a personality and understanding how it would define him or herself. It’s easy to stoke a conversation online about something negative, but that’s not the direction you want your community to grow. Instead, define the positive attributes your impact warrior avatar would like to apply to him or herself.
- Is your avatar driven?
- Is your avatar generous?
- Is your avatar inventive?
- Has your avatar seen success?
- Does your avatar learn from past experiences?
Step 3: Get emotional
Once you’ve defined who you’re trying to bring together (and for what business purpose), it’s time to get emotional.
Emotional contagion is the process through which people’s emotions are triggered by the same emotional state in others.
You see this phenomenon online every day, and usually not in a good way.
Emotional contagion can, however, be a positive force in your impact warrior community.
No one relates in a deep way to talking about how hot it is on a summer day, even though everyone agrees.
They do, however, relate in a deep way if you talk about something you learned that touches on a lesson they’ve learned, too.
This means you can stoke positive emotional connection by touching on more personal points that others can relate to. Forget the weather. The more emotional, and the more personal, the better.
Extensive research has shown that emotional contagion is equally present in online communication as it is face-to-face, too. Your course or coaching community can be just as emotionally charged if you let it, and for the benefit of everyone.
Step 4: Give them something to talk about
Once you’ve brought your impact warrior community together, give them something to talk about.
This part is easy since you already have webinars, courses and content you can share.
Your impact warrior community is not just a place to regurgitate content from everywhere else, however. You want to frame it in a way that your most engaged “tribe” community can use it to relate to one another.
For example, if you frame everything as though you were talking to a friend, the community will quickly take on the role of that friend.
Also bear in mind that discussions need to have some sign of urgency so people jump right in. If they don’t, the conversation will slow and stagnate. Threads and discussions go on longer when the elapsed time between comments and replies is lower; even the lag before the first comment on a thread is an indicator for how engaged the community will be on the topic.
You can draw the audience into deeper discussions on sub-topics, too. If you posted something about your course on Facebook that included a bullet-point list of “things to do to achieve X,” take one of those items and start a discussion in your impact warrior group on first steps to make that one thing happen.
Step 5: Give them something to DO
Once you transform that sense of community into real action, your “tribe” will become true impact warriors.
How many people just sit through your webinars, maybe even take notes, but then never implement what you teach?
It’s painful to see, isn’t it? You really want to see people be successful.
Your impact warrior community needs to be action-focused to avoid that. Don’t just talk at them—take a stance on things you believe in. Get controversial. Get opinionated. That way, you’ll actively influence and reshape participants, stir up more emotional contagion, and create an even deeper connection between any members who can relate.
Step 6: Leverage your products and services
While this isn’t the core purpose of creating an impact warrior community, it’s a natural complement to what you’re trying to do. Your products and services give you authority, so harkening back to them reestablishes where your opinions come from.
You already identified what your business’s purpose is, so the way to frame any mention of your offering is to point to exactly how it helps realize your business purpose.
Step 7: Liftoff
Once you’ve walked the walk, your impact warrior community will organically become an uplifting community built on connecting people with shared values, struggles and dreams. It will be a place where everyone can share their wins and next steps and get genuine feedback.
The Social Impact Ecosystem
Impact warrior communities function as ecosystems. That means they’re complex networks where everyone has a role. Impact warrior ecosystems are interconnected, living networks of all stakeholders.
You’ll see this ecosystem start to develop as people take on their natural roles. As the founder of the community, you’ll take a natural leadership role. Your community members, then, represent active discussion. Then, other external stakeholders are much like the fauna of your ecosystem, in that they’re observing quietly, but supporting, essentially putting off the oxygen your community breathes.
Here are the key roles in an impact warrior ecosystem:
- Impact warriors are your community members
- External stakeholders include research organizations, service providers and other businesses
- Beneficiaries include those individuals or communities your social impact efforts benefit
Your external stakeholders can provide your community with loads of support and feed more impact warriors into your tribe.
Of the following, which potential external stakeholders could bring your community the biggest shared benefit?
- Larger companies
- Support providers
- Service providers
- Educational institutions
- Research organizations
- Impact foundations
- Impact investors
- Public sector entities (local, regional and national)
Track, measure and report your impact:
Once you’ve built your impact warrior community, be sure to measure and track progress. How many members of the community are interacting? How has it changed the way people take in what you teach? How much closer have you gotten to key social impact goals you set for you and your business?
For example, has your impact warrior community inspired more volunteer hours among members?
Getting some of the information for these metrics can be challenging, which is why surveys will become your best friends. Surveys can get into some of the “fine print” details like how many hours someone volunteered, how many meals they delivered, etc. Surveys can also give you some anecdotal feedback that creates the best fodder for more relatability by way of testimonials.
Of course, many other important metrics will be instantaneous to collect, such as the number of impact warriors in your community.
Qualitative data demonstrates the positive change attributed to your business decisions. Compare this data month-over-month and year-over-year and favor sharing them more often than hiding them away. Doing so spurs even more of a sense of community for your active members and external stakeholders.
Thus, the ecosystem grows, and your impact warrior community with it.
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