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Building Community Between Screens

A Peer Perspective from Customer Experience Principal Kori Ashton

For the first edition of Better Connected—our monthly newsletter dedicated to diving into all things connection—we tapped Modern Tribe’s new Customer Experience Principal Kori Ashton for her thoughts on the value of connecting with a professional community in a virtual space.

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After all, she knows a lot about this stuff. Just ask one of her 39,000+ YouTube subscribers.

Kori’s work building free, accessible online communities for WordPress professionals includes PressTribe, a Slack channel for pro discussions and webinars, and AskKori, the aforementioned YouTube channel of tutorials and tips. Kori considers these communities, first and foremost, as a way to personally give back and lend a helping hand to next-gen entrepreneurs, but she also sees these platforms as a safe place for professional WP users to land regularly.

“We spend a lot of time too heads down on what we’re trying to create,” she says of entrepreneurs, “and the only time you pause enough to think about our professional network are the oh-sh*t-moments. If you can be a little more proactive and start to nurture those networks, you have a safety net to reach out to when those moments happen.”

Kori launched the YouTube channel first, in 2014, after hearing a speaker at a professional community event say this one sentence: “You must have a residual model of revenue in your company.”

One sentence! That’s all it took to spark the magic that led to AskKori. But, she says, there’s not really any magic to it—if you’re not making time for professional connections, you could be missing your next aha moment.

“Those moments are out there happening virtually everywhere,” she says. “When you put your head down and think, ‘I’m just doing this on my own,’ you miss opportunities to learn. You can quietly enter a room and listen and pick up incredible value.”

We asked Kori for some tips and insights on making and maintaining professional virtual connections. Following, some highlights from our chat.

Remember that community is a reciprocal thing.
“Find a community that encourages and supports you and does not drain you consistently. If you’re able to, find a community where you’re not the lead instructor every evening. Try not to always be the smartest person in the room.”

Do your research.
“Snoop with intent to build and grow your network. Knock on some doors virtually and watch them open up to you. Find a smaller group of mentors who have gone before you.”

Leverage Twitter lists to find and follow connections.
“Your professional community online can be a small circle of two others. I find most of these connections on Twitter. The world of WordPress lives on Twitter. So many speakers from WordCamps are so down to earth. I don’t think I’ve found a single one who didn’t have time for me. Even household names in this community have found time to talk with me. A lot of the WordCamps have lists inside of their Twitter with curated lists of thought leaders.”

Block off time for professional community building.
“Religiously put time for it on your calendar. This is your time to vent, let down your hair, share with others. That moment of being filled back up is what’s going to project you through the rest of your week consistently. Let someone else tell you, ‘You’ve got this!’ Hearing words like that is what is going to keep getting you up every morning and turning your sign to open.”

Show up. Even if all you do is listen.
“The word here is consistency. Show up expecting to get and expecting to contribute in whatever way that might be, even if that’s just responding with a smile emoji. Give a thumbs up to a message. Start to pour encouragement back into the community. You’ll find an opportunity to eventually contribute your own.”

How are you staying connected with your professional network? Get ideas with our Better Connected newsletter.

We’d love to hear strategies that have worked for you. Email hello@tribestage2020.wpengine.com and your idea could be included in a future edition of our new monthly newsletter, Better Connected by Modern Tribe. Subscribe for more business ideas, digital insights and trend analysis.