Engagement From Scratch is the new crowd-sourced book led by Danny Iny of Montreal, Canada and co-founder of Firepole Marketing. The subtitle describes it: How Super-Community Builders Create a Loyal Audience and How You Can Do the Same.
The book is a collection of essays from 30 people who are active online and who have experience building communities, along with a foreword by CC Chapman, author of Content Rules. Contributors include Brian Clark, Natalie Sisson, Evan Carmichael, Kristi Hines, Derek Halpern and Ana Hoffman — to name a few. “Yours Truly” (me, Anita Campbell) is also a contributor, so you can expect this review to be a bit biased.
The contributions range from big picture strategic … to detailed and tactical. The contributors represent communities numbering in the millions, to those that are compact and relatively new.
The types of communities include:
- paid membership communities
- forums and discussion boards
- email mailing-list communities
- communities built on social media platforms such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook
- communities that are multi-faceted and loosely defined — they fluidly cross over from blogs to Twitter to Google+ to Facebook, and back again.
Each essay has the contributor explaining his or her own experiences. Each speaks with a “been there, done that” authenticity. The contributions are thoughtful and analytical. Most are written in the first person to describe the contributors’ own experiences of what worked … and what didn’t work. Where else can you get so much expertise in a single package?
There’s also Danny Iny’s (@DannyIny on Twitter) own story. He writes about building Firepole Marketing, and the painful realities of their first big promotion of marketing services. They ran a huge contest as a promotion — and in the end got zero buyers. He faced up to why the promotion failed — the company had no community to tap into. As he writes, “A loyal and strong audience is much more than a bunch of readers — its a living and breathing entity that ties real people together. In other words, it’s a community.”
When you buy the book, you also get a link to a website with access to a template for requesting guest blog opportunities, checklists and infographics about community building.
An Example of Two Trends
There are two trends in book publishing that we’ve seen emerge recently, and both are reflected here:
- Sponsors: Like an increasing number of self-published books these days, Engagement From Scratch has sponsors. In this case they are Photos.com, WebFaction hosting, and Firepole Marketing. At the back of the book are special offers from them.
- Proceeds to Charity: Giving a portion of proceeds to charity is age old, but we’re seeing this occur with more frequency among books by entrepreneurs. It’s part of the larger “social entrepreneurship” trend. In this case, 50% of profits will go to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.
What I Liked Best About Engagement From Scratch
I like the fact that the book is set up as a series of individual essays. You get to hear from a wide variety of people. Each has different experiences building different types of communities. Each essay reads as a stand-alone piece. That means you can pick up the book and read one essay, set it down, and come back to it a few days later and read another essay — without missing anything.
Of course, the “separate essay” structure of the book may be disconcerting to some. Each contributor has his or her own voice and writing style. And while there are common themes that the contributors universally agree upon, there are also some points, especially tactics, that may seem contradictory from one essay to the next. I am not bothered by that, because there’s always more than one way to do things. I like a variety of input.
Here’s an analogy to maps and directions: Engagement From Scratch is not one set of directions for you to follow to get from point A to point B. Rather, think of it as a map that shows multiple routes you can take to get to the same destination. You get to pick which roads and highways to follow.
Who This Book is For
It’s ideal for entrepreneurs starting literally from scratch to build communities. While you may have a dream and good natural instincts, your dream will be easier to achieve if you can tap into others’ ideas and how-to tips. Even if you’re on a tiny bootstrapped budget, you will find plenty of insights that don’t cost much other than your time.
This book is also useful for those in small businesses that run existing online communities. No matter how thriving your community, there’s always something to improve.
Finally, Engagement From Scratch will also be valuable to marketers and executives in a large company tasked with building a community for your company.
Bonus: Danny Iny has made the book available to download at the Engagement From Scratch website. Download Engagement From Scratch.