Creative Commons License photo credit: marc falardeau

I spoke to a small group of staff members at the CNN offices in Atlanta on Tuesday. One of the things that we discussed is why they should, individually, care about building community online, even if they have no interest in being a community manager or working in digital.

As part of my slides, I put up on the screen a small sampling of people who work at CNN and include CNN as part of their Twitter username. Many people do this (search for CNN on Twitter) and it is understandable why.

When you are associated with such a well known and respected brand, it lends credibility to you and your work. That’s not to take anything away from you at all. It’s just the way it is. Some people are gravitating toward you because of your association with the brand and you certainly get more followers and more people paying attention to you because of it.

I ended my presentation with two questions that I asked the people in the room to think about.

What happens when you have to remove CNN from your Twitter handle? Who will still care about you?

The people that will care about you are the people who have connected with you, who are not just chasing the brand. They are not just a part of CNN’s community, but also your community. They care about you and not just CNN.

So, when you are engaging online and you are tied to a noteworthy brand, you are both building community for that brand and for yourself, which can be highly beneficial for you, your future and your career. So, it’s not just something you are doing for your employer or because you have to – it is also for you.

Of course, community isn’t just about you and your career. You build it by engaging, by helping and by caring. But, it has professional benefits.

More and more, when it comes to being hired in public roles, like entertainment, marketing, PR and more, the level of engagement that you have with the people who care about you will be a factor. If, all things considered, you and another candidate are mostly equal, it could be the differentiating factor.

At the end of the day, the power of community is not that you are connected to 1,000 here or 20,000 here – it is that when you make a move, you have people who care enough to follow what you do, wherever you do it.