How The JJ Community Found Its Voice

I want to talk to you about two things today, “Community” and “Brand”. I’ll show you how the two can work together in an incredible way for you on Instagram.

When I started getting involved with my business partner Josh Johnson and the JJ Community it took us some time to find our true voice. What ended up happening was that Josh had gone through a tough time in his personal life. While Josh was struggling he let the account go dark for a little while.

When he came back onto the platform he knew the growing community would be wondering where he was. Josh actually, to his credit, decided to be vulnerable and share very candidly about why he had stepped away from the community.

The outpouring of support was incredible, and it’s really made a difference in how we connected as a community. That’s when we knew that “Authenticity” was what defined the voice of our community and brand.

Growing An Authentic Community

As the JJ Community kept growing larger we had to become more strategic about how we enforce our values. Yet we still wanted to be completely open to what the community was offering back to us.

What was important to us was that we kept that feeling of “being a community” instead of just an “online group.”

What sets a community apart from a group is that it’s members have a crucial role to play in it’s continued existence and growth.

To that end, we learned how to act as leaders in order to shape the types of content and conversations that were brought to the #jj channel and account. This included people who sometimes brought in hurtful and not-so-positive comments which we weren’t sure how to handle at first.

Ultimately, by modeling our values as the community leaders, we’ve taught our community how to monitor itself and to self-correct when someone steps outside the bounds of what’s appropriate.

It’s OK to not like someone’s photos but we draw the line when critique turns into a personal attack and our community knows this and is 100% onboard.

This is important because every member and every interaction between members strengthens the value of what our community brings to the world.

Community Before Brand

Now when it comes to promoting brands within our community there is a very specific way we go about it. This applies to our own brand as well as that of our partners.

We make sure that any partner brand we decide to work with is OK knowing that our community’s needs come first all the time.

This can be scary for a lot of brands who are used to the old PR-driven model where you control the message from the top-down, however we know our model works.

We are always completely upfront with our audience about who our partners are and what the relationship looks like.

We’re never going to shove a sales message down their throats or promote a product we don’t fully support. And if something within the brand is controversial and it’s not all positive, then that’s a conversation we want to have as well. And we do it openly. That’s how we maintain our “Authenticity.”

Our community has come to really buy-in to our brand and we’ve been able to leverage that buy-in to create some unforgettable experiences for both us and the whole JJ Community.

Food For Thought: If there’s only just one word your brand can stand for and value, what would it be? What can you do to make that value even more clear in your business?

Action Steps

  1. Write down a personal struggle you’ve experienced that was somehow defining for you. For example, it might have changed the way you work, what you value in terms of a work/life balance, or something similar.
  2. Think of how it could relate to members of your community.
  3. Share this experience with your audience.


Result You Will Achieve

A stronger connection with members of your community.

Mentor: Kevin Kuster

CEO and Partner #JJ Community, the largest and most active photo community on Instagram.

This article is based on an EHQ interview with the mentor.