How to Build Community Around Your Publication

Write down your answers to these questions:

  • Who do you want to bring together?
  • Why do they want to come together?

Bailey explained that it’s especially good when you can describe your audience in terms of behavior and motivations rather than demographics; the latter might even be a legacy from advertising, which tends to put us into categories (think “35-44 year old urban working mom”).

By contrast, describing your audience in terms of a shared perspective creates the space for something that anyone can be a part of

  • “Being at the surprising center of a Venn diagram can feel really impactful and meaningful”.

Try to write a sentence that brings these two parts together (this also makes for a great one-sentence description for your Substack!):

  • This community brings together [WHO] so we can [WHY].
  • For example, Bailey shared the story of YouTubers John and Hank Green, whose community of Nerdfighters brings together “nerds and the ‘otherwise out of sync’” (who) to “increase awesome and decrease world suck” (why).
    • What do they need more of?
    • What change do they desire?
    • What’s a problem that only they can solve together?

Think of a shared activity that helps your community achieve their “why”. In other words: what do people get together to do?  In her experience, Bailey has found that people tend to get together in order to do something that is better in a group, like teach each other, support each other, and meet up locally

Your shared activity should have the following traits:

  • Purposeful: It brings your community’s “why” to life
  • Participatory: It gives others the chance to contribute (ideally, you shouldn’t do all the work!)
  • Repeatable: It takes place regularly, which builds a habit or ritual (Bailey noted that organizing a community is like running a cafe: you need to keep the doors open for your patrons.)

Your writing is a beacon for like-minded readers, even if you don’t know who they all are yet! Giving your readers the chance to get to know you, as well as their fellow subscribers, can be a powerful experience. Once you know who your audience is, the what’s and how’s of building your community will easily follow.