Most social media strategists tell authors to spend their time building a following for their platform.

“Create a Facebook page and Twitter account!”

“Increase your followers!”

“Get more email subscribers.”

As I learn more about platform and brand development, I’m less inclined to push clients towards chasing followers. Instead of telling clients to get more followers, I encourage them to build a community instead. Why? Followers make an individual famous, but communities make ideas famous.

Why Pursuing Followers is a Broken Approach

The biggest problem with pursuing followers is that it makes people famous while tempting them to compromise their original idea or message. We’ve seen this happen over and over when someone compromises their original message for the sake of their platform.

Furthermore, the pursuit of followers may force the author to become a poser or so-called “thought leader.” They pretend to be perfect or experts in a particular field in hopes of getting thousands of followers or a book deal. But no one can live up to this.

This approach sets them up for failure every single time. Chasing followers is the opposite of what publishers should encourage from authors. Instead of urging authors to gain followers, we should instead advise them to start with communities.

Why You Should Start with a Community

Communities aren’t developed around a person; they’re built around ideas and shared interests. If an author only wants to get published because they want to be famous, they will fail to develop a robust community every single time. But an author that is passionate about an idea will be able to rally others around that idea. A community is the vital to their idea flourishing.

Despite the popularity of the view that it takes is “one man” or “one woman” to bring about change, we know that this has never been the case. Every great leader that has ever lived developed a community around what they believed or knew to be true — even Jesus. God communicates the importance of community in the fact that he is triune.

Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and email lists are meant to feed your audience information. But they are inadequate for dialogue and online relationships, which are essential to a community. In a community setting, not only do members learn from you, but you learn from other members.

As a result, your idea is sharpened and refined. Rather than publishing content that’s based on your personal experience and speculation, you’re able to produce content that is clearer and more robust.

The Most Effective Tool for Building a Community

The most potent tool online for building a community around an idea is Facebook Group. Facebook Group has over 1 billion users (Facebook has 2 billion). Every aspiring author who believes they have a good book in them should create a Facebook Group because they’re built to bring together people with common interests and ideas.

If cultivated correctly, it’s more powerful than a Facebook page and Twitter account combined. It’s not flashy, there are no blue check marks, but it’s highly efficient. You have direct access to a group of people who share your idea and passion. They’re in the group because they want to learn and grow in a community setting.

Instead of primarily focusing on gaining followers, spend time building a community around a truth that you’re passionate about spreading. Building your platform benefits mostly you. Developing a community around truth helps everyone and causes change.

Phillip Holmes
Phillip is director of communications at Reformed Theological Seminary​ and a digital strategy consultant. He oversees branding, print publications, digital marketing and social media for RTS. Prior to this, he served as co-founder and vice president of the Reformed​ African American Network and content strategist at Desiring God. Phillip and his wife, Jasmine, have one son.