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In many ways, a healthy relationship between your brand and its community parallels that of a healthy relationship between two people. Both relationships rest on simple tenets like respect, and both should be celebrated whenever possible.

When thinking about the connection you've built with your community and its members, remember these 10 truths of a healthy relationship to keep your community feeling loved and appreciated.

  1. Remember to say "Thank you." People generally enjoy saying or doing nice things for others, and tend to do it without expecting to be thanked for it. However, we all know how great it makes us feel when we are recognized for our efforts. When your community says something nice about you, it's always a wonderful idea to say "thank you."
  2. Celebrate their successes. This is the age-old principle of thinking of others before yourself. If you do so, then you will probably notice the great things members of your community are accomplishing. Congratulate them and share their successes with others whenever you can.
  3. Be a good listener. This is probably some advice we all received at least once from a parent in our lives. Like Stephen R. Covey points out in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Great relationships are also built on the idea of give and then, perhaps, get. Invest in your community by listening and understanding their needs.
  4. Ask for their opinion. There probably isn't a person alive who doesn't like being asked for their opinion. Collaboration on a project almost always produces a better end result. Social media has given brands an amazingly simple and effective way to engage with those who have thoughts and ideas about them and their products and services. Remember to ask your community for its opinion.
  5. Don't forget about the little things. Sometimes it is the smallest of gestures that can mean the most to someone. Focusing on the little things that matter can show a person that they are indeed worth your time. When approaching relationships from a long-term frame of mind, it is very possible to make the time along the way for those important details without getting overwhelmed by the idea. Look out for the little touches to help each community member.
  6. Be patient. In any relationship, making things work means working through the occasional misunderstanding or frustration with one another. Life is not supposed to be simple; if it were, it wouldn't be all that exciting. It's important that you take a step back and look at every challenge from the other's point of view. Your patience and willingness to try to understand will be appreciated. Be known for your abundant patience and caring approach with your community.
  7. Admit your mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and holding onto your pride will never do you any favors. When you invest in building relationships within your community, members get to know your brand's human side. You will make errors but, while members may be disappointed, your community generally has the ability and willingness to forgive. Be quick to admit your mistakes and be genuine in asking for forgiveness.
  8. Share a common passion. Brands and people are more than capable of setting up daily routines to get things accomplished based on things that need to be done. And while working side by side on something does create a bond, it's usually not a bond that is sustainable over a very long period of time. Finding a common passion, something you both enjoy doing and talking about, creates the strongest bonds. If you are passionate about what you do, then no doubt there are others out there that feel the same way you do. Find them, invite them to your community, and enjoy learning and sharing together.
  9. Show respect and gain trust. The strongest relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. But getting to that point should ideally start with you. Be willing to respect the views of your community even though you may not entirely agree with them. Community members have reasons for their views and it is up to you to understand, or at least accept, them. And, when making commitments to your community, make sure you meet or exceed their expectations. Being willing to compromise, or give and take, will help your brand demonstrate respect and earn a community's trust.
  10. Celebrate Valentine's Day every day. Giving your community a Valentine once a year is definitely a nice gesture, but finding ways to show them how much you love them on a regular basis should be what you strive for. Apply your creative energy to think of new ways to accomplish goals 1-9. Most companies are still just awakening to this idea of focusing on their community, so anything you do to show appreciation for your community now can help your brand stand out in the crowd. And, heck, who doesn't enjoy making someone smile with an unexpected gift?

Although Valentine's Day is still several weeks away, we wanted to get you thinking about how love and appreciation can be translated into your community work. How do you celebrate the relationship your brand has with its community?

*In the spirit of community, David Alston and Teresa Basich collaborated on this post.