HOW TO BUILD A COMMUNITY FOR YOUR BRAND
Written by Sina Helmke on 24/6/2019
I had the pleasure to interview Mariel Jumpa and talk with her about the importance of community building and how to get started successfully. She is the founder of Slow Fashion World, which is a global community for conscious creatives that want to empower slow fashion visionaries to make their voice heard, show alternatives to fast fashion and increase the awareness about the current ecological crisis in our world.

Mariel will share her experiences and tips on how to build a thriving community for your business, how to use community building as a marketing tool and why it is so important in today's world and especially for Social Entrepreneurs.

Mariel is originally from Peru and now lives in Sweden. She used to be a flight attendant with a massive passion for traveling and connecting with people, and this led her into starting Slow Fashion World - because she wants to empower, connect and enable collaborations in ethical fashion between Europe and Latin America. Although she only started 1,5 years ago, she already created a community with almost 11 k people all over social media and about 1.600 members in her private Facebook group.

THREE PILLARS OF SLOW FASHION WORLD

The way her community is operating is based on the following points:

1) Sustainability: Always acting towards having an impact and making the world better
2) Inclusion: Creating an inclusive network of changemakers around the world
3) Innovation: Using social and technical innovations to improve

One reason why Slow Fashion World became successful very quick is the way Mariel structures her community. She enabled different changemakers from 12 countries (more to come) to support her network with their skills. When she chooses those changemakers, she is not focussing on their number of followers but individual strengths and knowledge. Every Monday one changemaker gets featured on Facebook, and they are not only designers or brand owners but also advisors and marketing/media experts.

In Mariel's opinion, it is inevitable for international entrepreneurs to build their own community - a personal tribe for their brand. Since social media is a community platform itself, you will not be successful otherwise. But it is also a beneficial way to showcase your mission and ideas and get feedback on them. You can test and find out what is working and what should be changed or improved.

COMMON RULE FOR SUCCESSFUL COMMUNITY BUILDING

To create a thriving community, you need a strong foundation which should be based on the following aspects:

1) Follow your passion!
If you are only interested in this particular idea or project at the moment, think twice if its worth it. You should think longterm!

2) Be ethical and sincere when you reach out to your tribe
You will not always receive positive comments, and it is ok not to remove or delete negative ones. Just always be active, honest and answer questions. Do not ignore your members even though you don't like their opinion. Show them that they are essential to you and keep them engaged by asking questions or using collaborations days.

3) Add value
You have to very good at chatting with people and start smart conversations. Try to share valuable content (but always check the source) and keep them up-to-date on your niche/industry.

4) Filter your members
You don't have to add everybody to your community. The easiest way to make sure your tribe consists of people that are genuinely interested in the subject is to add a questionnaire they have to answer in advance. It helps you to preselect and also get to know your members. You can, e.g. ask questions concerning their background and personal motivation.

5) Don't make it automatic
Try to avoid scheduling your content like a robot. Don't always post at the same time or have theme days every second day. But keep a structure and an order. You can't automate a community 100 percent, because you have to show your personality. But of course, you can have a team that supports you. But make sure they are aligned with your mission and values.

HOW TO HANDLE HATERS

If you follow the above points, you are pretty good prepared for creating your own community. But of course, it is unlikely that you will have a tribe with thousands of followers overnight. In the beginning concentrate on spreading the word and make it your number one mission that you exist. When you start growing, you may have to deal with negative people or copycats:

1) Listen
Try to understand their problem and show them that you respect their opinion. Talk to your critics and try to solve misunderstandings

2) Build trust
If you showcase your work with honesty and authenticity, people will learn to know and understand you. It makes it harder for a negative person to damage you and your work.

3) Offline events
Organize meetups or other activities with your tripe to deeper connect with them. Face-to-face interaction help to grow meaningful relationships.

4) Policies and rules
Make sure to have clear and easy to understand rules. If people don't follow them, it is ok to block or ignore them.

Another not unlikely situation that might occur is someone else starting a similar community. Mariel is very clear on this point. In her opinion, you should always reach out to them and try to create a collaboration. Especially as social entrepreneurs we cant stab each other in the back but instead should find a way to cooperate and complement one another. It can be a win-win situation for everyone involved. But if they don't want to team up, it is also fine. If you want to grow, you have to reach out, look around and not to stay behind your curtain. Don't fear competition because your personality is always unique - no one can copy it!

4 STEPS TO GET STARTED

Last but not least, Mariels most important tip is: Just get started and do it. Don't overthink everything but become active! The easiest way is to follow these steps:

1) Identify
You have to find out, what people are looking for and what their need is. Your passion is essential, but not everything. Make sure you look behind it and define the problem your target group is facing. This step involves a lot of research and testing. You can ask your family, friends and of course people that are within your actual target group.

2) Step Out of the Closet
This one might be the hardest part for some people, but it is crucial that you open up yourself to the world. Make sure you are ready to share your opinion and views with your audience. Structure what you want, what your mission is and create a story out of it. Share it on your social media and get used to spreading the word.

3) Communicate
The way you talk with your tribe has to be unique and compelling. You have to find a differentiator from other communities. Think about your story, personality, and values and create a communication strategy from it.

4) Feedback
Even if there are just a handful of people in your community in the beginning, always ask for feedback. Show them they are important to you and ask them what they enjoy and what they miss. You are creating your community for your audience and not for yourself.

Additional Links and Websites 

www.slowfashionworld.com
https://www.facebook.com/groups/slowfashioncommunity/
https://www.instagram.com/slowfashionworld/
https://digitalnomadgirls.com
https://consciouschatter.com

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