By Lily Langman
Social media is now an integral part of our lives and with the arrival of the Pandemic, people are spending more and more time online. The enforced isolation has made us look for meaningful connections in a virtual environment and hence the exponential growth of online communities.
What is a community and what is its purpose?
Growing and nurturing real relationships
When I started Yarn Lovers Loop, it was to find yarnie friends. I had just moved over to the UK from France, knew no one and was unlikely to be meeting anyone but my neighbours for some time to come. I had recently started using Instagram and joined in a few loops. The experience was like a series of one night stands.
I wanted real and meaningful relationships. A thriving online community
satisfies this need. It grows and nurtures friendships based on a mutual interest. Like a wonderful, free form matrix, you can dip in and out and there’s always someone to chat to.
You don’t feel alone.
With a bit of luck, you might even get to meet some of the people in real life. In the
meantime there’s group chat and Zoom and it makes things a little bit more bearable.
Defining ourselves to others
I suddenly found there were a lot of crocheters out there in the world! And they were such lovely people. We were drawn together by a mutual love of making things. What was an eye opener was how many had been drawn to crochet as a mental and physical refuge from pain. We defined ourselves by our love of yarn and it was understood that we had a lot of yarn that our partners didn’t know about and that our spare time was spent muttering things and wiggling yarn about.
Feeling better about ourselves
A problem shared is a problem halved? People in a secure community feel they can share their highs and their lows. Problems are more than halved. They are brought out into the sunshine and blown away with group love and support. People are reassured and those giving the reassurance feel better about themselves.
Once a big bunch of people get together, with a range of experience and skill sets, the community becomes an incredible resource of knowledge. People are happy to answer questions. Others feel comfortable about asking them, without fear of ridicule. Everyone benefits. We all have things to learn, tips to pick up, disasters to share.
Any community which has the above elements will thrive because it brings value to its members.
If you are looking to build a community, I would suggest the following steps:
Define your target members. Who are they, where do they live, what do they do, what do they look like. See them in your mind’s eye
Find out where they are online
Decide how you will contact them
This is the most important of all. Know the things of value that your new community can offer to them.
Defining value: In order to give value, you need to know what your ideal community member needs and also what they can contribute. Take some time over this. Start with yourself: get a list of questions to ask yourself and then reply to them. Then go to your friends who have a same interest and get them to answer the questions. People always come up with surprising answers.
So when you have your target community members and you know where to find them, start doing some preliminary contacting. Follow them and show appreciation for what they are doing. Get a conversation going. Hopefully they are sufficiently into what you do/make that they will follow you back.
Get your community page going and start sharing to stories. With a bit of luck, your new
acquaintances will join in. Don’t rush it and I would not advise buying followers. Its not speed dating.
It will start slowly, like all good relationships, but it will be based on trust and is far more likely to last.
On the first week of Yarn Lovers Loop there were 17 joiners, nearly all of which are still with us. The next week there were more and it has continued to grow steadily over the intervening period. In the last event we had nearly 350 joiners, many of whom are regulars.
It’s a real thing.
If you are a yarn lover, come and join us at @yarnloversloop on Instagram where we have weekly get togethers running from Friday to Sunday throughout the year. We also have regular promotional events and community support themes. We are on Facebook in the group Yarn Lovers community. I would be delighted to see you on my IG page which is @lilyknitsincumbria.