• Michelle Fifis

The Importance of Online Communities in Today’s Business Culture

As a community leader, teacher, or coach, do you feel it rests upon your shoulders to have the answers for everything?

I have experienced this in my career because I wanted my community to think they could rely on me as a leader, always. This meant I had to know the specific steps to take in order to help any member in my community work through a challenge or to best support their career goals.

In the past, this has been a strength of mine as a community leader. My involvement and my pride in knowing how to best support others and empower them is something I’m known for and that others appreciate. By putting in my best I help others to put out their best. Everybody wins, right? At least they did until…

The pandemic hit.

Leading Through Uncertainty

Like everyone around the world, members of our community suddenly had their lives turned upside down. People were staying at home, feeling uncertain, and trying to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy. Many lost their full-time jobs. Others were suddenly faced with the daunting task of juggling homeschooling their children and running their freelance businesses. I’m sure we all had one of “those” days where we melted down a time or two. The world suddenly became so new—so uncertain.

And as a leader, I froze. I spent weeks obsessing over how I could help our community. What should I say? What direction could I give in terms of how our design industry would react to this worldwide tragedy? For the first time, I didn’t have all the answers. I did not know how the pandemic would affect our industry. If someone were to ask me, “Michelle, how should I pivot my business?” I would have not been able to give an effective answer.

Finally, I expressed these feelings of concern to a wise friend, and she replied, "I don't think anyone is expecting you to have all the answers."

Bam. What?

My friend’s wise and insightful reply got me thinking—really, it was a game-changer for me. I began to see things from a clearer perspective. The community didn't need a fact-based response or action plan from me. No one has ever called me a fortunate teller, and with good reason. All the community needed was a supportive, caring, safe environment to share, be heard, and, best of all, laugh and decompress.

With this realization, I started a weekly "Coloring Hour" event. A one-hour chat session where we all came together to color, chat, and laugh. It's a simple idea that has generated lots of steam and become one of our most popular community events. It gives our community members a fun place to escape to each week, even when other aspects of their lives are stressful and draining.

Creating An Escape

While I have had a growing interest in online communities over the past few years, this event is what has made me so passionate about building online communities for others. We all needed each other before the pandemic, and we especially need each other since it. There is tremendous value and benefits in an online community.

In an online community, there is an opportunity for people to feel seen, heard, supported, and valued when they can't find that support in their day-to-day lives. These community members can bond with others over a shared passion, interest, or hobby. And in a time when people are feeling more isolated, joining in on engaged, authentic communities can be a lifeline for people to stop feeling like they are alone.

Helping people feel more connected and appreciated is an incredible honor, and it's why I am so passionate about community building. If you are ready to build a supportive, engaged community for your clients, customers, and followers, book a time for us to chat here. I would love to help you become the next strong online community leader in today’s business culture.

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