Community Building and Having an Online Support System

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The last few weeks have been rather interesting filled with the usual challenges and information overload that most of us who are self-employed have to deal with. I’ve needed support, provided help and garnered an enormous amount of information along the way. Throughout it all, I’ve managed to find solutions on my own and through the support of the community of bloggers that I’m a part of.

How Can You Find an Online Community?

  • Become active on a couple of social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Follow a few blogs related to your niche target market and join in the conversation.
  • Look for posts and comments that make you think or teach you something new and add meaningful comments that add value.
  • Build your online presence by sharing experiences (both good and bad) that we all can learn from.
  • Engage with other bloggers and business people by lending an ear and trying to help.

Connecting with people and helping one another online is no different from connecting and helping each other in our day to day lives. This week, someone emailed me a video about a community that came together to move a barn. It happened in 1988 on a small farm about a half mile outside of Bruno, Nebraska (sixtly miles west of Omaha).  The barn had been built in the 1920’s near a creek and the new homeowners could not afford the cost of hiring a company to move it.

The Ostry family organized 344 volunteers to pick up and move the nearly 17,00 pound barn 115 feet and 6 feet higher to its new home as part of the Bruno Nebraska’s Centennial Celebration.

I hope you find this video to be as motivating as I did. Do you have stories where you’ve seen community come together? What stories can you share?

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Published by Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

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60 Comments

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  1. Ok that video of everyone lifting the house was amazing. I think the most important part in community building is to get started and don’t forget the social in social media. Too many people look at community building as a sales pitch. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Engage and give.

  2. In the country people help each other, not like in the city. You could die in the middle of the road and 99% of passing people won’t lift a finger, they’ll pretend they don’t even see you.
    But the people in the video are a community, a real one, something most of us can only dream of.

    1. Claire, I don’t know if you’ll make many “city” friends with that statement. Maybe it just seems that way to you but I’m sure there are people who do help others. It may just be that there are so many more people in the city that on a day to day basis people seem to be rushing by and ignoring each other. I like to think that there are heroic people and people who want to lend a hand everywhere around us.

      1. I only know what i read in papers and see on tv.
        I don’t doubt there are heroic and compassionate people in the cities, but like i said, they’re just 1%.
        And in the end those are the chances for someone helping you while you’ve collapsed in the middle of the street.

  3. Hello Sherryl,

    That is a truly amazing video, which really underscores your point. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    One of the things that struck me, was the fact that a great deal of planning and preparation obviously went into that operation.

    1. I noticed the planning and preparation too. It was an extremely well organized and executed operation. It’s amazing what they accomplished. It was so nice to see that old building was “rescued”.

  4. I really believe that in fact people nowadays find difficult to engage in a community online because they are in fact having trouble in their off line communities. Because it really is the same thing.

  5. Hi, Sherryl.

    It’s been awhile since the last time I was here, but I am glad that the post I come upon on my first visit back is this. I have been pretty busy lately and I haven’t really done much blog commenting. But, I have felt the void of being away for far too long.

    Sure, I post at least once a week on my website. Sure, I tweet, discover posts and do retweets on Twitter. But, there is really something about interacting through blog commenting that will help us more.

    You, for one, has taught me a lot of things and I know I’ll never stop learning from you. So, thank you for that. And, I hope I was able to impart some kind of learning, too. That’s what’s good about having an online community. Not only can they be a great support system, they could help you learn a lot, too.

    So, I’ve decided to be more regular in my blog commenting again, though not as much as before. But, enough to keep the communication lines open.

    Thanks for this post and the wonderful video. 🙂

    1. Hi Wes,
      It’s good to see you back! Lately, I’ve been finding it difficult to even post once a week. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with the day to day stuff and not move forward.

      Thanks for the kind words. I definitely feel you’re part of this little community as well as the larger community of bloggers that I’m a member of. My way of gauging who I feel connected to is when the second I see your profile pic, your name or your Twitter ID, I immediately recognize you (no matter how long ago we dropped by each other’s blog) and I can tell someone what it is you do (your brand) and why I think they should hop over to your site. 🙂

  6. Great points all around, Sherryl, but that video was really cool. Who would have thought. It’s great to see people come together for a common goal. I remember several Christmas’ where myself and handful of others would deliver to a random person in the community where our office was located. Very often it was given to someone whose family was in dire need. It took awhile to find people who would want to donate to the cause but when people saw what a positive effect it had on families, they started ahead of time and eventually we started doing it year round.

    1. Hi Dennis,
      Helping people in need is such a wonderful thing to do. My grandmother always told us how she grew up very poor and if it hadn’t been for the Salvation Army, she would never had a Christmas dinner or a present. Every year, we make a donation to their “Neediest Families” fund in her memory. I’m sure many of the children who receive a small gift will grow up with the same gratitude that my grandmother had.

  7. I love what i’m reading. so often you hear about community building and its some way to make an audience to market to. You absolutely should reach out to your network to make your offline life just as interesting as your online life.

    1. Hi Buddy,
      We have a mini-community right here. Lots of times, the comments and discussions left for my articles are as good (and yes many times better) than the posts themselves. There’s a very talented group of bloggers who drop by and add to the conversation. It’s an easy way that we can all help each other.

      1. You’re so sweet sherryl, true indeed. But your posts are worth to comment on and the topics are good enough to start a conversation. Your questions are really encouraging. That’s why we’re here. 🙂

  8. No doubt it “takes a village”! What I especially love about this video illustration is the lack of ego, of leadership of the “need to be in charge” and “take credit” mentality. This is truly an example of teamwork in the purest sense of the term.

    I believe that many people fail to ask for help for fear of being viewed as needy, or incompetent. When in reality, it’s those who reach out for knowledge and assistance who are the ultimate “winners”.

    Nice, motivational post, Sherryl! Many thanks for the uplifting moment in my day

    Heidi (& Atticus)
    “commentary to give you paws…”

    1. Hi Heidi (& Atticus),
      You are so right about the lack of ego to accomplish this. There was a plan and everyone acted as a team to execute it. It wasn’t even that long ago that this happened and you’re right about asking for help. If the Ostry family hadn’t asked for help, that barn could have been totally lost.

      Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed this. I’m thankful that I was invited to join the “Circulation Desk” community! 🙂

  9. Hi Sherryl,

    oh this was beautiful to watch! Thank you so much for putting it on your blog, I will have to repost this 🙂
    It reminds me a of the times I was an Exec. Chef and working with a wonderful team on a cruise liner. It was one of my most challenging contracts I’ve ever had. Cooks work a full contract of up to 9 months through (not a single day off) with 10 h/day (chefs 24/7, any given time..). For a couple of weeks we were SIX cooks and FIVE pot-washers short but my team would not let me down and we all managed so well that we had the best and most successful time ever! Everyone worked 2h extra unpaid and we all helped one another and pulled it off. The best part was that we laughed and had fun even though it was tough on our bodies and minds. Never in my whole career did have such an amazing team again!
    I am still in touch with every single cook & pot-washer that was there during that time. I went to visit some of them in the Philippines, met their families and spent more time with them. We skype, email and if one of them would need my help tomorrow, I would take the next flight to Manila and be there for them immediately.

    The video gave me goosebumps!
    Thanks so much for sharing, we human-beings can pull off some amazing stuff when we stick together,

    Franziska San Pedro
    The Abstract Impressionist Artress

    1. Hi Franziska,
      Thanks for sharing your experience on the cruise liner. It is amazing what we can accomplish when a team of people come together with a common goal. You must have been exhausted working those extra 2 hours but the camaraderie helped to keep you going. That’s wonderful that you’ve stayed in contact with them.

  10. Wow! I wouldn’t have believed it without seeing it with my own two eyes. Isn’t it amazing what people working together with a single goal can accomplsh? A great reminder of how much we all need to get together with a singular focus on anything that needs to get done. With this kind of spirit, the world can be changed. LOVED this post, Sherryl. Thank you.

    Austin/Bill

    1. Bill,
      I got a real kick out of the man who said “I can lift 90 pounds.” It was really nice how they incorporated it into the town centennial too. I received the link to this video in an email from a friend and it impressed me so much that I started thinking about our online communities and how we affect each other there too. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed it.

  11. Glad to be a part of your network, I do agree, online and offline meeting one another more and more often. I am now setting up a course with someone I met on Facebook! It helps that we live in the same town.

  12. Great blog and very informative. I love the video of the Barn moving.
    It’s so nice when people get together to help each other.
    Nicely done.

    1. Hi John,
      I recognize you from our LinkedIn group! I’m going to offer you the same tip that I just offered Jeanie:

      A great way to start building awareness and become part of a community is to set up a globally recognized avatar at Gravatar.com (it’s free). (Those of us who have our profile pics alongside our comments have done this.) All you’ll need to do is register the email address that you use on social media, upload a pic and link it to your website.

  13. Great post, Sherryl.

    My world is very much built on my communities. Many of them are virtual, as in the case of my writers assn, PWAC (the Professional Writers Assn of Canada.) We’re all spread across this vast country, but are very supportive of one another in every possible way. Having that community has helped build and strengthen my career and instil the importance of helping one another.

  14. Sherryl,

    Another great post. I agree that being a part of an online community has many benefits and can be especially helpful for people who work alone. It can give you type water cooler experiences that we grow accustomed to when working on the job without all of the office politics. Becoming a part of a couple of online communities can be a great help when the well runs dry and you needs some help, suggestions or just a pep talk, they are there to help you.

    Congrats on finding the support that you needed.
    Happy blogging,
    Jenn

    1. Hi Jenn,
      Thanks for letting me know that your enjoyed this. I know you’e very familiar with online communities. We’re both members of the Bloggers Helping Bloggers group on LinkedIn and I’ve connected with you elsewhere as well. It is wonderful to be able to connect online. I’d miss the human connection from the workplace if it weren’t for social media. 🙂

  15. Very interesting analogy, I like it! I can’t give an example of any online community, but you are right about ways of finding or building it.

    1. One of the ways to become a part of a community Jeanie is to start building brand recognition. A great way to start is by going to Gravatar.com (it’s free) and creating a globally recognized avatar. (Those of us who have our profile pics alongside our comments have done this.) All you’ll need to do is register the email address that you use on social media, upload a pic and link it to your website.

  16. I’ve been struggling at first to find a certain community in the same niche as mine. I’ve started in forums and you’re right. Eventually, I became active in Social media (FB) and it’s quite amazing to find people with the same field. They provide me inspiring tips and motivational conversation a lot. It’s really important to find support online to be still in the competition.

    1. A couple of things that I did in the beginning was to find a few bloggers that were popular in my niche and then I started commenting on their blogs and tweeting their posts. Eventually, I got on the “radar screen” of a few key players in my area. As they started RT’ing for me, I started getting traffic from some of the same people who were following them. Since we share common target readers (without competing directly against each other), it can become a mutually beneficial relationship. Good luck! It sounds like you’re on the right track.

      1. Same as vhien and you sherryl, its not easy to find a great support online. I started also in participating in conversations and it’s quite good in getting people in the same niche although I have an FB account, I like Twitter a lot because of the RT features.

        1. I prefer Twitter to FB too dhanna. It’s great for me because it forces me to be succinct. Otherwise, I’m prone to rambling. 🙂 It takes much less time to edit and post when I know I only have 140 characters to express myself.

  17. Love love love the video! Thank you so much for sharing this great post. It is a testament to how a community can really help each other. I have been fortunate in finding an online community that is so supportive and wonderful and who I completely enjoy. A team is always better, thanks for the reminder. Jana.

    I found your post via linked in. I am from adoctorandanurse.com

    1. Hi Jana,
      Welcome to our little group. I followed your link to your blog and left a comment for you on your post about stress eating. I liked it so much that I tweeted it too! I hope to see you here again. 🙂

    1. That is so true Catherine. It’s wonderful to have online friends that I can count on if I need them. When you look at our core group (from Bloggers Helping Bloggers on LinkedIn), you see what a diverse group we are. – Which is great! We all seem to have areas of expertise that overlap just enough so that we can add to the conversations on each others’ blog while still learning something new most of the time. 🙂

  18. Great video you shared here, Sherryl. It reminds me of how back in the days when majority of the homes here in the Philippines were made of bamboo and nipa, and moved around in the same manner from one town to another. 🙂

    The most vivid memory I had was back in September 2009 when a strong typhoon hit our country. I was one of the volunteers that waded through the floodwaters that went as high as my chest to help bring the relief goods to those people that were severely affected. It brought together young and old, rich and poor, Filipinos and foreigners alike to just lend a helping hand. More than making me feel so grateful that my family and our home were spared, seeing the overwhelming response just made me see first-hand how much things can be achieved if we all just lend a helping hand whether it’s in the midst of disaster, or just helping each other achieve their personal goals and dreams.

  19. Sherryl, I loved this video (and not just because I’m proud to call myself a Nebraskan!). It really illustrates your message of how important a community is. I’m happy to have you as part of my online community and can honestly say I have learned so much from you. Your list of websites which pay for articles has been a huge help just to name one!

    1. Hi Trish,
      Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment. I’m happy to be a part of that community also. I’m glad you enjoyed the list of websites that pay for articles. That’s not my post. I retweeted it and right now, I can’t think of who the author is. I’m pretty sure I tagged it as a favorite though so I can go back to it.

  20. What an inspiring video. The power of community to move mountains — in this case a barn — is awesome. I’ve benefited from the support of my fellow bloggers, including you, Sherryl (thanks) and many other communities. I belong to a peer group from the Transition Network and when two of our friends were out of work we all pitched in with ideas and support. They are working now and it’s great to know we had some small part in it.

    The internet has enabled the formation of like-minded communities with members who have never met and probably never will. But the bonds are still strong. And, of course, Twitter and Facebook members formed communities that helped to bring down dictatorships in the Middle East. Communities are more important and powerful than ever. You’ve just to locate the ones where you can receive — and give in abundance.

    1. Jeannette, I definitely count you in as part of my core community of bloggers that I can look to for support. (Thanks to you too.) The Transition Network sounds interesting. That’s a wonderful idea.

      What I find upsetting is that there are people who are using Twitter and Facebook for wrong doing such as organizing crime sprees. That is truly unfortunate. Thankfully, there are so many good people in this world.

    2. Wow, I really loved the video – thanks a lot for sharing it with us on your blog. I found also quite amazing, the amount of preparation and organization that went into the project. Thanks a lot.

  21. Online communities can offer lot of help. As far as a Blogger is concerned, the community spirit is something that can help us to spread the word faster.

    1. George,
      When you mention spreading the word faster, it reminds me of how quickly we can spread the word through Twitter especially when we work with other bloggers who we trust and respect enough to tweet for.

  22. Hi Sherryl,

    I was think of the Amish community when I watched the video as I have seen documentaries where they all come together to build something or to help each other.

    I think we will see more collaborative efforts especially with other small business owners as once you realise you don’t have to go it alone a huge weight is lifted. As well what seemed to be a problem can actually turn out to be an opportunity once you involve others whether online or offline.

    1. Hi Susan,
      The Amish community is a wonderful example of people helping each other. Thanks for mentioning them. I certainly agree with you about collaborating with small business owners. I know there would be times when I would definitely be questioning my sanity if I weren’t connected with several people online (including you and many others) who I can rely on to bring insight to my situation that I sorely need. I’m very grateful for that support.

  23. Not quite the same but right now the Auckland community has finally pulled together the support the All Blacks. The energy in this town is magic and miraculous. Mind you me, it might be a different matter if the ABs lose the Rugby World Cup tomorrow night.
    On another note – I have seen many communities come together to create miracles like in Christchurch with the earthquake and over 1000 students came together to shovel the silt and dirt that bubbled up out of the earth. Magic happens when you ask for it

    1. I remember the joy and support for the Boston Red Sox team when they finally won the World Series in 2004 for the first time since 1918. Sports does have a way of uniting their fans.

      I just Googled on the Christchurch effort to refresh my memory Roberta. The article I read reports that the effort was organized on Facebook. Social media certainly unites support globally too.