From Authority to Unity: Revealing The Power of Community Building on Social Media
We couldn’t be more excited to welcome our esteemed guest, Kim Scaravelli, to our Champ Talks!
She is a Content Specialist and Author of MAKING WORDS WORK. With over two decades of experience, she has transformed clients’ content from dry to compelling, earning their trust and empowering others to create powerful content.
We asked a series of questions from Kim during our Twitter Space hosted by Neha Khan & Kulsoom Awan, Community managers at Social Champ to learn about her views and thoughts on the power of community building.
Kulsoom: How are you doing today, Kim? And can you please introduce yourself to our audience?
Kim: My name is Kim Scarvelli. I live on the east coast of Canada. Lovely city, right on the ocean. I work from a small home office that I had built, like, a little building in my backyard, which is delightful. I am a content strategist, so for the most part, for many years, I worked exclusively with big nonprofit organizations. They need to create a certain level of trust and vibe, more or less, in an online space, and that can be difficult for them. So I come in and help to make sure that the way they present themselves online is in line with their vision and their audience and that they’re able to make those real, authentic connections. I’m also the author of a book called Making Words Work. And every second Wednesday, I send out a surprisingly popular newsletter called Writing and Other Stuff, which I do very little to promote, but I’m amazed at how popular it has become. So that’s me in a nutshell.
Kulsoom: Can you tell us what is the fundamental difference between building a community and building an authority on social media?
Kim: Absolutely. So, first of all, they are not opposites. This isn’t a conversation about why you need to stop thinking about building authority and now build community. It’s not like that at all. But it is about sort of adapting your mindset. So if you picture building authority as holding a megaphone and just screaming out there into the abyss all the reasons why you’re an important person. So an authority, you’re trying to build the image of yourself as an expert. And for the most part, an authority on social media sites is gauged by your follower count. If you are an authority, you should have a ton of followers. That’s really what it is. Building a community is a little bit different. Building community is more like reaching your hands out and trying to hold hands with other people, and then they hold hands with other people. It’s a different thing. It’s more about relationship building. So it’s less dependent on your follower count and more on the engagement you are getting with key followers who have a lot of things in common with you. That’s the fundamental difference.
Kulsoom: How does community building on social contribute to long-term engagement and bring more loyalty amongst followers?
Kim: When you’re focused more on building community, you have a key group of followers who actually talk to you. They tell you what’s going on in their world. You tell them what’s going on in your world. You share each other’s posts, and you comment on things. So that kind of community building, instead of exhausting you, actually gives you energy. It’s the same idea as going hanging out with your friends, having a coffee date. It improves how you feel about your career, life, and how things are going. It’s called social media. So it really is designed to work best when you are social. And so long term, it’ll allow you to build your follower count slowly. You can still do that authority thing, but ultimately, I think you are going to be more successful at it, and most of all, you’re going to have more fun at it. And that really is important.
Neha: How does the concept of “social proof” play a role in building a community as opposed to building authority?
Kim: So when we talk about social proof in that traditional sense, we are talking about, for example, in an online setting, it would be a whole bunch of logos that you put on a website or testimonials case studies. Those are elements of social proof. But the kind of social proof that builds community is different. So using my launch and founders group as an example, this is a group of, I think, 26 women in marketing that are all over the world, and we developed a sense of community. The way you build social proof in a community is by showing up. And by that, I mean, for example, if you’re building a community, make a list. It doesn’t have to be a public list; make it a private list, and put all the people that are part of that community on that list so that when you first say open Twitter in the morning, go to that list, look and see what those people are saying and interact with them. That is how you build social proof in a community. You share it with other people, you all use that megaphone to amplify each other, and you show up and comment and interact with people within that group, and you do it quite consistently as I recommend daily that you take five minutes and you peek in that core group. And so, over time, you build social proof with the other members of that group. They know that you are going to help them build an audience and share their news and that you are interested in what’s happening in their world, and they will reciprocate. And truthfully, it’s about engagement.
Neha: What are the potential downsides or pitfalls of solely focusing on building authority on social media platforms?
Kim: Well, I think the biggest pitfall is that it’s lonely. I don’t believe that there are very many people who enjoy being all alone with no social connections. It does not actually work. So I think that the biggest pitfall when you focus on building authority, one of the biggest pitfalls is that you’re alone. You’re not getting enough input from other people. So from a business perspective, you’re not staying cutting edge, you’re not learning new things, you’re not staying ahead of the curve because you’re only talking to yourself. The other big pitfall that I see is that you cannot win. So as an example, I think I have 9500 followers or something on Twitter. If you are somebody with 2000 followers, I probably look really successful to you. If you are someone with 100,000 followers, I look like nothing. No matter how many followers I get or how much authority I build, I will never build as much authority as somebody else. You are always going to be doing that fear of missing out thing. There’s no finish line. There’s no point where you go home, Success is what lights the fire in your belly that makes you go have more success. Failure just doesn’t do the same thing. So I think the biggest downside of focusing on building authority is that you can get very wrapped up in FOMO and not get those moments of success that you really need to have to move forward and actually build authority. Which is kind of ironic, isn’t it? You build more authority when you stop worrying so much about building authority.
Kulsoom: What strategies can you think of that could be employed to get maximum attraction between your social media community?
Kim: I like the word strategy. Build diversity. I am a middle-aged white woman. I have nothing against other middle-aged white women, but I want a more diverse community. It’s okay to have a man in your community. It’s okay to have people from all over the world. That’s the fun of social. Make sure everyone in your community doesn’t look like you, sound like you, and speak exactly like you. Because then you don’t have a community. You just have an echo chamber. And there’s not much productivity there.
Kulsoom: How can community-driven content on social media resonate better with the audience compared to authoritative content?
Kim: Well, that’s really interesting because I think you need both. I mean, I’ve written a book called Making Words Work. I send out a newsletter called Writing and Other Stuff. So at some point, I have to be able to confirm that I am an authority about making words work and about writing online. Otherwise, I’m not going to be able to continue to thrive in that space. So I think that you always need some authority-building content when you are part of the community. But the community-driven content, which really is that’s your engagement, your sharing of other people’s things, you’re giving people a shout out, they work together, they’re a hand in hand thing. Every piece of content that goes out through social media mentions other people, other people, you know, that tells people how great they are. That’s your community-driven content. And ultimately, this is called social media. That is your most powerful content. And then your authority-driven content is the stuff that’s telling people what makes you an expert, and your community helps to throw that into the world. It’s that sort of many hands make light work philosophy.
Neha: What positive outcomes can be expected by building the community?
Kim: Oh, all kinds of positive outcomes. You need to find the balance. So the balance for me is that you’re the person at the party. Think of social as a party that introduces themselves politely and tells people. A little bit about themselves, then asks them a question, then reflects an interest in their answer, and then says something else about themselves. It’s a give-and-take; it’s a conversational element. And when you do that, part of it is listening. So you’re going to get feedback, you’re going to gain insights, you’re going to learn new ways of doing things, and ultimately that is actually, believe it or not, going to make you create better authority content. It’s going to build your follower count, it’s going to do the things that you are in social to do, and it’s going to do them more effectively, and it’s going to do them in a more pleasant, less mentally taxing way. The game here, as we said in the first question, is long-term.
We’d like to thank Kim for being part of the #ChampTalks. Her insights have made a significant difference, and we appreciate the time and effort he took to join us.
If you missed it, you can join the complete session here.