When you enter the blogging world you automatically become part of a community. How deeply involved you become in that community is entirely up to you. Some people like to quietly blog away and don’t feel the need to partake in interactions with others in their community. Others become very much engrossed in it. But either way you are part of the blogging community by default of being a blogger.
So what is community? Well that’s the kicker. Everyone’s vision of community is slightly, or grossly, different. Personally this definition really says it all for me:
“Community refers to a social unit of any size that shares common values.”
Do we all have common values? It doesn’t always look or feel that way and certainly we don’t all share a duplicate set of values with one another but that’s not necessary to be part of a community. Even one common value can tie people together.
Community builds social capital and social capital is a valuable thing. It’s what enables us, as bloggers, to not only get ahead but to help others get ahead. Without it there would be no blogging world, or at least the blogging world that most of us know would be radically different and largely void of usefulness. If bloggers did not support one another we would all be out of work (if of course you “work” your blog).
Can you imagine a world without social capital?
How do you support your community? How do you help build social capital? Is it important to you?
I am part of several organized blogging communities. I also interact, share with and support bloggers that are outside of these networks but I still consider part of my community. This exchange of information and offering of support is not just valuable but essential to my success and to yours.
Occasionally I come across another blogger who prefers to stay tight lipped and not share their mysterious “trade secrets”. I feel sorry for those people. It not only leads me to believe that they are insecure but I also think that they are missing out on something important. The sharing of information and insights makes the world a better place. It leads to innovation and discovery. It closes gaps and fills holes.
Competition is not a bad thing. It gives us that drive to do our best. Competition, of course, exists in the blogging word. It has to. Without it there would be no push to take us beyond mediocre. But competition does not have to cost us community. In fact, the two really do have to go hand in hand. Because, really, who do you compete with if not community? Do you care that someone completely removed from you is doing better than you? Of course not, because you probably don’t even know that. Community allows us to push each other. It’s how you do that pushing that counts.
There have been a few things in the blogosphere over the past few weeks that have made me stop and think about all of these things – Community, Social Capital, Support, Competition. And at the end of the day the one thing that keeps coming back to me, that I would love to shout to everyone is – Don’t take yourself so seriously. Sure, your blog makes you money, it is your business and THAT you need to take seriously. But you are one amongst a million. Someone out there will always be better than you, and you will always be better than someone else. Opinions will differ, you will question ethics and motives. That’s good. That is healthy. Stop fretting about it. Have your say, because that’s important, debate is awesome. But don’t worry that someone else is bringing the blogging community down by their actions, by what they say or do, by what they charge. They aren’t. Instead focus on your community and building into something you’d like to see. Be a good leader. Lead by example. You are only as good as the company you keep and your community IS your company. Treat them well and send them down a good path.