Feeling Lonely: The Human Secret
to an Engaged Membership Community.

Feeling Lonely: The Human Secret
to an Engaged Membership Community.

See that handsome dude in the photo?  That’s my Dad and he was a fighter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.  This meant we moved around a lot when I was a kid.  I was always the new kid.

Photo on 28 11 2018 at 14.25 5

This fact alone earned me a degree in “feeling lonely”.  

I remember how it felt to show up on the first day of school after moving to a new town. Not having friends from kindergarten to sit with and frantically scanning the room to find a free spot.  Spending my days trying to look cool, like I was busy or quietly scanning the playground or classroom looking for an “in”.  A way to connect with someone and finally break through that horrible sense of loneliness. 

For some reason I was destined to stay that way though.  I moved from school to school every couple of years not really making friends…always the new kid.

So close your eyes for a moment and think back to a time when you felt lonely.

  • Was it a Friday night alone on the couch binge watching Jane the Virgin on Netflix?
  • Or were you at Persuade Live London, mixing up an instant coffee at the back of the room?
  • Were you waiting to pick up your son from school surrounded by other parents?

Really focus on that memory and how you feel…in your body, mind and your heart.

What did it feel like?

  • Maybe it was sadness or heaviness in your shoulders.  
  • Or maybe a tight tension or pressure in your chest.  
  • Maybe you felt small or insignificant
  • Or maybe you simply felt like no one understood you, or wanted to understand.

Now, what does this have to do with online community you ask? 


Everyone is a little kid on the inside, just looking for acceptance and for a way to fit in.  The difference is that we are in adult bodies now and most of the time we are hidden behind screens.  So you need to ask yourself some questions.

Are you creating situations for your members to break the ice when they join?  How do they feel on day 1 of joining your membership?  

  • Do they have friends who can show them around?
  • Do they feel like they can jump in and participate openly and freely?  
  • Do they know how things work there and what is and isn’t kosher?  

Just like a kid on the first day of school, your members need to know that they are welcome, safe and they are meant to be there.  

It’s your job {or your team’s job} as a community host to eliminate ALL their insecurities, and address their questions right off the bat {without overwhelming them} so they can dive in and start forming meaningful relationships from the get go.  

You also need to show them that your space is a place to have fun and be themselves.

How do you do that?  Well…you need to ensure that you establish your community vibe in everything you do.

What’s Your Community Vibe?  

As I teach my 1 on 1 clients, your community vibe is the unique blend of:

  1. The way your MEMBERS want and need to feel
  2. What YOU bring to your membership (your personality, humour, experience etc).

The first key to nailing your vibe is answering the question: how do your members want and need to FEEL in your community?  Once you know how they want and need to feel…you simply make them feel that in every inch of your membership community.

  • On your sales page
  • In your onboarding emails.
  • In your welcome message
  • In your FAQ
  • In your Community Guidelines
  • In your images (look and feel)
  • In your comments, interactions, live calls and content.

EVERYTHING must ooze your community vibe.  So focus your sights on better understanding how your people want to feel.

Not sure how your members want to feel?  ASK THEM.

That’s right Sherlock.  Dust off your monocle, pop on your cape, puff on your pipeity-pipe and send them a survey.  

In that survey, ask them TWO questions:

#1:  What is the number one emotion that they want to feel while interacting and engaging in your membership community?
#2:  What is the number one emotion that they want to avoid feeling, while interacting and engaging in your membership community?

Give them some options to help them focus in on what they want to feel.  

Bonus tip: Including a wheel of emotions can be quite helpful as well…and rainbow pretty.

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Click to view full size

Once you know what emotion they want to feel, it’s your job…your mission…your north star if you will, to ensure that everything in your community triggers that emotion.

Spoiler alert…one of the emotions will be supported…with a side of french fries…I mean a side of another emotion.  Feeling supported is the “Club sandwich” of emotions {your go-to order when you’re not sure what to eat} when it comes to a community and you’ll have it with a side order of “inspiration” or “empowered” etc..

When assessing if your nailing your vibe or not, ask yourself…

Does this [copy, image, post, etc] make my members feel [Supported, inspired, empowered etc]?  

If it doesn’t CHANGE IT.

Now back to little Diana on another first day of school in a new city.

In Calgary, I had a teacher who could tell I was struggling to fit in.  He let me {and a couple other students} stay in our Social Studies classroom to clean the blackboards during recess.  

I was terrified of recess.  I didn’t know anyone and I thought everyone would make fun of me.  I wasn’t a slim Jim and people had been known to make note of it.

So I stayed inside, cleaned the black boards and felt safe.

  • Do you think that helped me make friends?  Nope.  
  • Do you think that stopped me from being scared of recess?  Nope.

He had good intentions, but it didn’t really help me, and you might be doing the same thing in your community.  

I know you want to support your members and create an engaging and valuable experience for them, but what you might be doing {what so many membership community hosts think is right} is actually killing engagement and sentencing you to a life of being in your community 24/7.

What am I talking about?  You might think that YOU need to instigate conversations and “engage” to get others to engage (especially in the beginning) but what you’re actually doing is sending the message that:

  • This community doesn’t work without you.  
  • You will be IN it 24/7 and members don’t need to step up and support one another.  
  • YOUR opinion, support, and feedback is more important than that of other members…which actually kills engagement dude.
  • Your time isn’t valuable.

Not to mention the fact that 90% of business owners think they have a community when they actually just have a form of coaching or access to them.  That’s totally fine if that’s what you want to provide your members, but coaching is not community.  Shit…I think that’s a whole other blog post waiting to be poured out on the page.  Stay tuned for that!

Now, if you want your community to really BE a community…you need to be more like another teacher I had, Mrs. Butcher.  

After living in England for 4 years we moved back to Canada and Mrs. Butcher was my homeroom teacher.

{Surprise surprise} I was extremely reluctant to go out to recess.  

On my first day of school I took my time packing my backpack and getting my jacket on, while most of the kids were out of class already.  I stalled as much as possible.  Anything not to be outside…and be exposed.  

But I remember Mrs. Butcher was having none of it.

I can’t remember what she said, but it was firm and maybe even a bit harsh, but I knew she wasn’t going to let me stay inside so it was pointless trying.  I grabbed my jacket and went outside.  And a funny thing happened.  I actually played with other kids.  

I remember playing 4 square and basketball and I don’t remember any issues from other kids.  Mrs. Butcher set the tone for the entire year…that I would go outside quickly and play.  

Now…in the moment I felt like she hated me but by the end of the year, she was my favourite teacher.  Why?  Because she did what was best for me.  She could have sheltered me but she simply set the expectations of how things were going to work in her class and enforced them.

You need to do the same in your community and channel your inner Mrs. Butcher!

I’m talking specifically about having and enforcing Community Guidelines dude. You MUST have rules so that people can know what is and isn’t kosher.  

When writing your guidelines, make sure they:

#1.  make your members FEEL how they want/need to feel.  Aka…they are dripping with your community vibe.
#2.  are not just a list of NOs and aren’t super negative.
#3.  show specific examples of what is and isn’t appropriate.
#4. sound like you (in your voice) and aren’t just a wall of text…bust out your memes, GIFs, videos etc.

Now what about managing your community?  

What the heck does loneliness have to do with community management?  Read on my pet. 

When things happen, you’ll need to assess the situation and react in the best interests of your community and the members involved.  If you don’t, you risk making the situation worse.

12 years ago, when I first moved to Spain, I found out that my Dad had Alzheimer’s…in an email.  

Yes…take that in for a moment.  An email.  

Is that the best way to find out that your badass fighter pilot of a Dad is going to slowly lose the ability to take care of himself, talk, walk…and ultimately forget you?  Hell no it isn’t.

For a long time I hated the fact that my Mum sent me this news in an email, and didn’t take the time to pick up the phone or hop on Skype.  

Now…would a phone call have changed the fact that my Dad had this disease? Nope…but it sure would have changed the way I felt about how I received the news.

So please remember this when you’re about to handle a situation in your community (especially emotionally charged ones), so you can choose the best response and format.  

Some questions that you should ask yourself…

  • When should you reply publicly?
  • When should you reply privately?
  • When should you delete posts or comments?
  • When should you hop on a call?

These are all questions that you can and should answer, but most importantly…you should answer them BEFORE there is an issue.  Being able to anticipate issues, and front-load the bulk of your responses before there is a problem, saves you hours of time and protects your sanity.

Instead of worrying about what you’ll do if XYZ happen…just answer the question.  Sit down and decide how you’ll respond AND create a standardised template to customise when the shit really hits the fan.  

Don’t wait until you’re knee deep in drama to think about how you want to enforce your guidelines and protect your community.  It’s all about setting boundaries and expectations for how you want to manage your community and following through on them consistently.

Feeling alone in a crowded room?

I’m probably not alone when I say that I’ve felt lonely in a crowded room on many occasions.  Am I right?  

You know, the times when you’re sitting at a dinner table but you feel like an outsider, like you aren’t quite in the conversation or you can’t quite connect.  For me I need to navigate language (even though my Spanish is great), and cultural differences on a daily basis.

I can’t count the times that I’ve gone out for dinner with a group of friends and suddenly found myself sitting there looking at the table, or pretending to dig into my purse for something, or drinking my drink a bit too quickly because I felt like a total outsider.  It could be anything, but once you find yourself feeling outside the conversation it’s hard to get yourself back into it.

So what about your members; What are they expecting from your community? Are they feeling alone in there?

One of the common mistakes that community hosts make that can lead to this is focusing their groups 100% on their topic.  

  • If you help Etsy sellers make more sales from their shops…it’s Etsy 24/7.
  • If you help Fashion Designers freelance or get jobs…it’s all about Fashion Design day in and day out.

While the majority of your community posts, content and engagement will circle around the subject matter you’re focused on, you’re turning away engagement opportunities when you don’t create space for members to discover uncommon commonalities.

What are uncommon commonalities?

I heard this expression for the first time from Jayson Gaignard, the founder of Mastermind Talks and the Community Made podcast and I can’t get enough of this concept.

Basically, it’s the idea that people connect easily on random similarities that are not common to the group as a whole.

Imagine you host a mastermind dinner and two of the guests both love salsa dancing… BOOM uncommon commonality in da’house.

It’s like a fast tract to connection, and allows people who might be feeling “alone in the crowded room” to reach out and feel more connected.  

How do you facilitate uncommon commonalities?

Well…you simply create opportunities to focus on something that ISN’T related to your subject matter.

Good examples of this are pets, food, sports, travel, etc.  Anything that is universal.

A great example is what Jenni Waldrop started doing after she learnt this concept in my beta program.  She noticed that her members like to talk about their pets periodically, so she started featuring her cats in posts and used them as a theme.  OMG…people can’t get enough of her cats!

Screenshot 2018 11 28 at 15.51.20

Her members LOVE to talk about their pets and by bringing in her cats she’s opening space for members to connect about something totally unrelated to Etsy shops.  They even started sharing pet photos on Fridays!

Be an expert of feeling lonely.

Now, earlier I said that I considered myself a “feeling lonely” expert and that I see that as an asset when it comes to community.  With all the moving and new kid moments, I’ve been lonely for most of my life.  That’s why I’m so drawn to helping leaders build outstanding communities for their memberships.

In all honestly, the only time I didn’t feel lonely was when I hung out with my Dad.  He was my ultimate one man community; a space where I could

  • talk about anything,
  • laugh and be myself,
  • be with someone who got me (and was just as weird as I was),
  • get great advice in the form of stories and jokes, and
  • dream bigger than I ever though possible
  • be ME.  

The sad part of this story, is that he’s no longer here.  He passed away on Dec 29th 2016 after over 10 years of Alzheimer’s slowly taking him away from us.  When I think about it though, losing my Dad has shown me the importance of community.  It has also given me the opportunity to step into his shoes and be that person for you.  To bring together a community of membership community hosts, so you can laugh, share and grow with other people just like you…as you provide the same for your members.

So whenever you find yourself struggling to engage your community, take a moment to focus on loneliness and how your members might be struggling with it too.  Then brainstorm fun ways that you could punch that loneliness {lovingly} in the face.

As you can tell, I love to write word-babies about membership communities on my blog for you, and I send out emails word-babies too.  If you want to learn more about membership communities via email {and eat up more GIF magic}.  Sign up below, and I’ll send you the PDF version of my 2 word-teens…my ultimate guides!

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