From Zero to 17’000 – Some Thoughts on Building Community…

One of the most frequent things I get asked is: ‘How did you build your following?’.

It’s a fair question.  A few years ago I started as everybody does, with pretty much zero support and 5 followers (2 of which were my mother who had signed up twice to make sure she didn’t miss anything).  Today I am a 100% audience-supported artist; I have a blog that is read in 170+ countries by a community of almost 18’000 subscribers, and a Twitter following that is sitting somewhere around 88’000 people.

All of which was accomplished from the ground up with zero external media or paid advertising.

How?

Read on, and I’ll tell you…

Human beings crave community, it’s a deep down thing.  A fundamental need which has likely endured unchanging since the first of us crawled up from the darkness of the ocean floor and out into the light.

But what exactly is a community?

A community is a group of people built around something of value and maintained by connection, service, and mutually beneficial exchange.

There are 3 things you should be aware of if you wish to build one:

The first is your motivationWhy do you want to?  Because if you are doing it for glory, fame, or some other kind of personal gain it simply will not work long-term.  A self serving motivation is by definition diametrically opposed to the growth of any kind of group that is fed and nourished by contribution.  If you walk into a garden and suck all the water from the ground nothing can grow.  But if you visit that same garden daily with your watering can in the spirit of service, at some point you will likely be surrounded by a myriad of flourishing blooms.  If you truly wish to build a community the very first step is to shift from thinking of it as something you can gain from to something you can give to.

The second thing to be aware of is that communities come into being and orbit around some kind of value.  Value is the lightning rod, the tiny piece of grit around which the pearl of community can coalesce, given the right conditions.  Value can take many forms and be presented thru many avenues, but both avenue and form are secondary to the true quality of whatever it is that you bring forth.  Say something true, and say it as best you can with all the craft, sweat, blood and tears you can muster; then put it out into the world as a gift for the people who can benefit from it.  Then do it again.  And again.  The response will let you know if you are adding value.  Your answer is in the echo.

The third and final thing to be aware of is that you now have a responsibility to honor any exchange that comes from the giving of value with your best and most genuine self.  This is where you strengthen or weaken the proffered connections that can ultimately become community.  Treat any relationship that arises with the same care and attention as you would a relationship with your beloved, and always remain aware that public communities are fractal, meaning: if you are talking to a single member you are also talking with the whole so, no matter what the provocation, do not be an asshole.

In summation, to build any kind of worthwhile and long-lasting community you must:

Do it for the right reasons.  Be freely adding value to the world.  Honor any exchange that comes from it in the spirit of service to a larger whole.

The really good news?  If you sincerely do these things you will not have to seek out an audience; instead, people will flock to you in droves.

We are social animals, skin hair bone and breath.  Communities are the places we go to connect; to give, to receive, and ultimately to know ourselves.  Built and tended for the right reasons they can genuinely impact and benefit the world.  Personally, I count my relationship with the community of people that has grown up around my work as one of the greatest blessings in my life.

I will continue to do my best to honor it.


If you enjoyed this you may also like: my post about the beauty to be found in darkness, my essay concerning the 3 things you should know before you quit your day job, or  my love letter to the mountains of Scotland.


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285 Replies to “From Zero to 17’000 – Some Thoughts on Building Community…”

  1. Pingback: Wigsai
  2. Really liked your post. Your approach to blogging is quite different and you believe in giving back to the world way more than you actually want. Your helping approach is reason behind your such vast list of followers. I’m glad I read your article, it changed my thinking towards blogging and gaining followers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey man- I found these words very profound and they helped guide me. I’ve been blogging daily for two months and hit the, “Are you blogging for likes, to promote your story, to be authentic to thought?” place in the road. The universe does speak- I’ve been interested in your words and dedication to the journey. Even earlier today thought about reaching out to you- then I saw you liked a few of my thoughts. I just wanted to thank you for stopping by and sharing in the spread of words on my blog. I look forward to more shared wisdom…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there, you are most welcome – carry on doing what you think is the best thing for you, it’s all good work.
      Thanks for the kind words about my posts, I am glad that you find value in them.
      Have a good day my friend – thanks for stopping by,
      – J

      Like

  4. Great post James. I like your philosophy. I agree we have to not be seeking fame and fortune. We have to do what we love and share it with the world. I imagine some people start out with that intention, but then they get caught up in the money and popularity and lose sight of why they started working on their dreams in the first place. We’ve seen the tragedy of famous people who fall. Alanis Morissette did an interview later in life and when asked what fame felt like she said empty. But she got tangled up in that in the beginning. I wonder how people can stay the course like you? Going to my women’s healing circle is a great community. We all give and receive to each other every week. Thanks for sharing your sectets😉
    Traci💕

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this and commented:
    A great post by James Radcliffe on building a community. I especially like this “Do it for the right reasons. Be freely adding value to the world. Honor any exchange that comes from it in the spirit of service to a larger whole.” Read on, like, and share. But share the original post. Give credit where credits due.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks a lot, both for sharing this and for your kind words about the piece.
      I also really appreciate your plea for correct attribution, as you know, to an artist this is golden.
      You can come back anytime ;-)
      Have a good one,
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great article James. This is the kind of motivation, inspiration we sometimes need to keep going when it feels like your “community” is not going anywhere. Thanks my friend. Have a great day.

    Liked by 2 people

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