In July, Sarah Robinson contacted me to find out if I’d be willing to review her forthcoming book, Fierce Loyalty. Would I? But of course! Sarah truly understands social media engagement, and her new book Fierce Loyalty is a shining example of why I admire her work and her philosophy. The book is a step-by-step framework for defining your compelling community interest, and building a fiercely loyal community that cares about your cause. It’s practical, easy to absorb, and thoroughly engaging (oh, pun intended!) Fierce Loyalty emphasizes that developing a community is not about the organization, but about the community and the people in it. Using Sarah’s framework, any organization can easily move from “why don’t enough people care?” to understanding what fans really want to talk about within an online community, and finally, to developing a strong and fiercely loyal online community. I couldn’t agree more with Sarah’s guide to building a community of engaged, loyal, and enthusiastic fans.
Readers of this blog will be interested to hear of Sarah’s deep experience working in the nonprofit community, from her role at St. Louis University as a Community Development Coordinator in the residence hall system, to working at HandsOn Memphis, to her role as Executive Director at the Alzheimers Association in Memphis. Fierce Loyalty is jam-packed with case study snapshots of non-profit and corporate organizations that have built fiercely loyal online and offline communities.
Sarah Robinson doesn’t just understand that loyalty is important, she understands the DNA behind what makes customers fiercely loyal. In my interview with her, below, she speaks to what makes up the DNA of a fiercely loyal community. In these economic times, when individual and organizational resources are stretched, nonprofits must cultivate fiercely loyal fans in order to thrive.
I believe in this book, and what it can do for your organization. Thanks to Sarah, I am giving away two free copies of Fierce Loyalty to my blog readers.
Please leave a question for Sarah on this blog post. I will give away one paperback and one Kindle version of Fierce Loyalty to the first two blog commentors who leave great questions for Sarah.
My interview to with Sarah Robinson follows below. Read on to learn more about Fierce Loyalty, the DNA of successful communities, her background, and the role of social media in building loyalty. You may also want to read more from Sarah on the Fierce Loyalty blog, chat with her on Twitter, and find out more about the the book on the website.
How do you define Fierce Loyalty?
Sarah: To me, Fierce Loyalty is that unshakable commitment we give to someone or something that we feel is an integral part of who we are. The trademark qualities of Fierce Loyalty are Pride, Trust and Passion.
In your book, you write that you first learned the building blocks of Fierce Loyalty at St. Louis University. Can you tell us more about that? What did you learn that you use with your business clients today?
Sarah: Little did I know I’d learn so much from my very first job out of college that I would use over 20 years later. I was hired by St. Louis University as a Community Development Coordinator in their residence hall system. My job every day was to build and grow community among the student who lived in the dorm I was in charge of. For many reason, most of the students weren’t really interested in forming a community. Being as stubborn then as I am now, I decided to dig in and figure out how to get them to buy into the idea. I couldn’t force a community on them. They had to want it. That’s one of the biggest lessons I took away from that experience, actually. So often I see brands build a community and then go out and try to find people to be in it. And then they don’t understand why it’s not happening. That’s what I teach my clients: build your community WITH your community members – even if you just start with a handful of people. This invests them in the success of the community and it gives you invaluable insight into what they really want from a community.
You explain that all successful communities – from the small start-up nonprofit to the internationally recognized brand – share a common DNA. Can you give us a brief overview of what this DNA looks like?
Sarah: Sure! There are five building blocks that make up the DNA of a Fiercely Loyal Community. They are:
1) A Frame That is Formed by a Common Interest. This common interest could be about your organization specifically or it could be about a bigger idea that is associated with your organization. For example, if your organization runs an overnight shelter for homeless women and children, the common interest could be in your organization and it’s unique approach to solving this problem or the common interest could be about improving the welfare of homeless women and children.
2) People Who Share This Common Interest. Conversations are happening all around us all the time. It’s easier than ever to find conversations around specific topics. Once you have an idea of what your community common interest could be, find people who are talking about that. Observe conversations. Participate if you can be helpful.
3) Compelling Needs. Not everyone who shares your common interest will be looking for a community. You can identify those that are because they are expressing three compelling needs: The Need for Belonging, The Need for Recognition and the Need for Safety.
4) Organizational Structure. For a strong community to exist and flourish, the organizational structure must contain these elements: Predictability, Support and Connection.
5) Community Evolution. As I mentioned earlier, there are three hallmark qualities that distinguish a Fiercely Loyal Communtiy – Pride, Trust and Passion. These qualities have to be intentionally fostered and encouraged so that they can evolve and grow.
In the book, you offer a lot of examples of how you’ve built fiercely loyal communities around a nonprofit mission. Can you offer some examples of nonprofit organizations that are doing a great job of building fiercely loyal communities today, and what they are doing so well that enables those communities to grow?
Sarah: I can think of two nonprofit organizations who are building awesome fiercely loyal communities – each in a slightly different way:
First is the one I mention in the book, Surfrider. They found a captivating common interest shared by many surfers (not an easy thing to do) and once they started building their community, they gave each local chapter a high degree of autonomy to make their own decisions about what their efforts should like. VERY empowering.
Second is Habitat For Humanity. Each and every house build that happens requires that a community form around the project. Habitat provides the organizational structure, lending predictability, support and connection points. The structure allows the sponsoring organization, the fundraising team, the family, the builders and Habitat to form a high degree of Pride, Trust and Passion very very quickly.
What is the role that social media plays in building fierce loyalty?
Sarah: It’s funny you should ask that. During a presentation this morning someone asked me I thought community was the exclusive domain on the online world. I tried not to shout my answer “NO!”. Don’t get me wrong. Social media has a huge part to play in building and supporting a fiercely loyal community. It offers simple and easy ways to find people who share a common interest, connect them with your community and develop pride, trust and passion I wouldn’t have any of my current communities without it.
All that said, though, don’t overlook the critical importance of face-to-face community experiences. In this great big impersonal world we live in, we crave real human interaction. By providing that to your community, along with online experiences, you’ll see Fierce Loyalty develop much more rapidly.
Please leave a question for Sarah in the blog comments. Sarah has generously donated two copies of Fierce Loyalty to this community of blog readers.
I’m looking forward to reading your questions and giving the books away to the first two blog commenters who leave a great question for Sarah.