How Community Creates Ravings Fans

I teach people how to build a successful, profitable and connected community without having to spend money on paid advertising to do so. 

Many Facebook and Google Ad promoters, as well as those wanting quick, short-term success might argue that you need to run ads to bring people into your community or membership. And they are correct that spending money might get some people in the door quicker. 

But I want to explain to you why it isn’t the best choice for building a real community. 

Once again, I will use sports as an example. Why does he always have to use sports as an example? You might be asking in your best high-pitched Jim Gaffagan voice. The honest answer is, I don’t know! It just always seems to relate. I love when readers tell me that they don’t even like sports, but they completely get the sports analogies. Because of them, I will continue on. 

In October, I took two of our sons to a Tampa Bay Rays playoff baseball game. The Rays got off to a historic start this season, seemingly poised for a long postseason run. But they faded late, and they got into the playoffs as a wild card, as opposed to winning the division. 

We nabbed a few tickets and even though I know it’s not the most rabid fan base, I was surprised by how inexpensive and available they were. The kids were excited as well as they had never experienced playoff baseball before.

When the game was over, the experience left a lot to be desired. Set aside the fact that the Rays were shut out 4-0. That obviously contributed to a less raucous crowd. Add to that the fact that when the national anthem finished, and it was time to play ball, there were more empty seats than seats with people in them. 

Later that week, I saw an image of fans in Cleveland tailgating outside their stadium prior to a Browns’ football game. The game was sold out, like they all seem to be. And the Browns have been historically awful. They have never won a Super Bowl. They have never even been to a Super Bowl. Worse than that, since their stadium opened in 1999, they have not even hosted a single playoff game in that stadium. 

Contrast that to the Tampa Bay Rays, who had their inaugural season the year before that Browns stadium was built. They have been to the playoffs nine times and to the World Series twice. 

So why is it that the Rays have such a hard time building a rabid fan base with all of their success, and the Browns still have such passionate support? 

I believe it’s because of the community built around them. 

We live in the greater Tampa area, and it’s fantastic. Palm trees, gorgeous beaches and abundant sunshine. But hardly anyone that lives here is actually from here. Almost all of us have migrated from other areas. So, when it comes to a community built around their sports franchises, the excitement and buy-in is lukewarm. Building a connected community takes time.

There are so many people that root for the away teams because they live here, but they still have allegiance to their hometown team. That adds to the challenge of building a raving fan base, when your stadium is constantly filled with fans from the other team. 

But Cleveland? 

They have all been through the ringer together, for decades upon decades. Even the twenty-something fan who has just dealt with the latest round of disappointments knows the history. They can recite catchphrases like “The Drive” and “The Fumble”, heartbreaking moments from the 1980s, and they know the story and the pain, even though they weren’t even born when they happened. Browns fans are Browns fans through and through, no matter how much pain they endure. And that common bond brings them closer together as a community. But it’s only shared because of time, history and a common goal. And that’s why, no matter what happens on the field, they come back time and time again. 

Building an online community, or membership, is really not that different. 

When you build a community organically, the people inside feel a connection to one another. They have gone through struggles together. They have celebrated the success together. Many of them were there from the beginning. They can talk about, explain and even protect the culture. They actually care about the community. And as new people join, they have an interest in their involvement as well. 

Communities that are built from a solid foundation are the ones that stand the test of time. They have people inside that want the others to stay, and to succeed. They aren’t built on getting as many people in as fast as possible. They also have a nucleus of people that don’t let others destroy the culture. When you have a group that wants the culture to stay strong, the members actually point out the “infidels” to the leaders and other community members.

But all too often, community builders want to build with speed. So they look to pay for ads to scale something that’s not scalable yet. Now, they might get more people in quickly, but there is no connection. Not to the message. Not to the leader. And not to the other members. And when you have a large community of people with little connection, the infidels thrive and increase. The scammers appear out of the woodwork. Those who lack integrity stay, which pushes the better members out. 

This is why many memberships see such high churn rates. People join but there is little to no buy-in. They are the Rays fans casually showing up to a game. They dip their toes in the water and leave but fail to form a connection. 

The wise community builder does it with time and connection. They aren’t looking to build it fast – they are looking to build it well. They don’t need huge numbers to keep playing the game and improving. They know that if they build a community where the members feel a common bond, or goal, they will actually fight to stay together. Those around long enough know that the Cleveland Browns were pulled out of Cleveland in 1995 by an owner that betrayed the fan base. Four years later, the team was back four years later with their original colors and logos. That only happened because the community was so strong – even in the hardest times. 

So, before you seek to build bigger and faster, choose to build intentionally with more connection. 

Not only will it make everything better, it will increase referrals, reduce the churn of members leaving and contribute greatly to the bottom line of success for you, your members and the community you build as a whole. 

Have an AMAZING week!



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