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Anyone else tired of playing the social media game? Recently, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with the platforms, the content and the rat race to produce more and be seen more — which ultimately seems to be spiraling into more and more virtue signaling. As the New York Times recently stated, “Social media is, in many ways, becoming less social.”

As an entrepreneur, agency owner and go-to-market expert in SaaS and Fintech, I have a lot to say and a lot of experience to share, but lately, no matter where I go, it feels like the loudest voice wins. The most controversial. The most emotive. Regardless of its appropriateness to the platform.

This is hard to ignore or compete with when you’re trying to build a brand and create leads. Being seen is important. But I’d argue that the growing trend for community is a clear cry that people want to do business differently. A lot of us are tired of the noise and the lack of connection and authenticity. There has to be an option where we can find the connection and resource sharing we want. Enter community.

Before we started down the community road, we talked to dozens of individuals in our target audience (founders, revenue leaders) about how they felt about communities — what they wanted from them and what they hated about them.

Related: 6 Benefits of Having a Community When Building a Business

Emerging leaders are yearning for more support

Whilst social media gives us a sense that we are more connected and aware, the reality we saw emerge from our research was that emerging leaders feel more isolated than ever. And with budgets getting cut left, right and center, there is little internal business support for skill development, mentorship or peer-to-peer feedback and guidance.

Many have hit a wall in their careers, and the normal playbooks they were using aren’t working anymore in a post-pandemic world; they are desperate for new ideas and ways of working to solve their challenges.

Because of this, we are seeing a swell in personal branding posts, with many believing that by replicating the same thought leadership tropes and formats they will be seen and have their current career plight fixed. This, coupled with more and more using AI to create their content, and you are filled with a noisy feed.

This is perhaps why it was important to them that communities felt personal. They wanted to make connections that were valuable to their futures, not just their company’s. As one interviewee told us, “You need communities to bounce ideas off of so you aren’t feeling lonely. Also open and honest conversations on what’s working, what isn’t. It’s like therapy! I’ve formed so many connections, including friends, and it’s how I got my new job.”

Why executive leaders need community too

If it’s lonely in the middle, it’s positively desolate at the top. The majority of those we spoke to wanted more community in their professional lives but were dissatisfied with what was on offer. Executives were burned out from being sold to everywhere they went and hearing the same surface-level messages from the same people at every forum. Many were over focusing solely on technology solutions and craving intelligent, action-led conversations that helped them move forward and drive growth.

This led to defined differences between what executives want and need in a community versus emerging leaders. These included clear time commitments, focus, more intimacy and trust. As one CMO stated, “I’m busy. I’m tired. I need immediate value and I need to know what that looks like.”

Another, a former board member at several FTSE 100 companies and now a founder, said, “It’s so nice to be in a community of like-minded people facing similar challenges. Many of my peers have really senior jobs and they usually can’t talk to anyone. Finding empathy is so important, as is a safe, non-judgmental space that leads with generosity. I’m not interested in BS showing off.”

As Christina Garnett, award-winning community builder, formerly at HubSpot, told us, “For executives, a community must offer a sense of exclusivity and trust, prioritizing quality interactions over quantity. This experience should be designed for efficiency, enabling quick, meaningful exchanges among a carefully selected network of peers and thought leaders focused on sharing valuable insights. In this environment, the limited time of executives is respected, facilitating genuine connections and strategic discussions that encourage mutual growth and impactful collaboration.”

Related: 6 Benefits of Joining a Professional Community

How to find (or build) a community

As my team has experienced firsthand, this isn’t a simple task — and it’s a long-term strategy to drive engagement. And no one needs another sub-par, unengaged community out there. If you’re on the hunt for a community that delivers, or feel the calling to create one, here are six key factors to consider:

  1. Ensure exclusivity and relevance: Communities, particularly those for executives, must be exclusive and meticulously curated to maintain a membership of peers who share similar levels of experience and challenges. This helps in keeping the discussions relevant and deeply valuable.

  2. Premium content and networking opportunities: It’s crucial that the content and events provided are concise, premium and directly applicable to the needs of the members. Whether it’s through expert-led sessions or workshops tackling pressing topics like digital transformation, the goal is to provide strategies that can be immediately implemented. Networking, too, should be facilitated at a high level, with structured events that promote genuine connections (don’t forget to add some fun, too!).

  3. Convenience and accessibility: Given their tight schedules, executives will benefit from a community platform that allows for asynchronous engagement and is mobile-optimized. This enhances the user experience and boosts active participation.

  4. Strict privacy and security controls: The platform must use state-of-the-art encryption (potentially even NDAs) to foster a safe space for open and honest discussion.

  5. Tailored insights and real-world applications: Each piece of content (e.g. case studies, success stories) should be designed to provide tactics or strategies that can be directly applied for business growth and operational efficiency.

  6. Feedback and adjustment: Regular feedback should be sought from all members. This will help refine the offerings and ensure the community evolves in alignment with the members’ shifting needs and industry trends.

Keeping the content rich, the discussions relevant and the connections meaningful is the overarching goal.

Related: You Need a Community With Shared Values to Find Long-Term Success — Here’s How to Cultivate It.

Turn down the volume

This is certainly not a clarion call for every business to launch a community tomorrow.

But I think it highlights the need for all of us to edit and curate ourselves better, to create better experiences, discussions and safe spaces for our network to grow and learn. It also highlights the need for us to create more authentic voices instead of competing to shout the loudest. I think we could all benefit from getting back to basics and finding a community that works for us. It’s time to stop chasing the algorithm and instead return to creating true connection.

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