In this competitive digital world, imagine having customers that choose to interact with your brand beyond the purchase of a product or service. They not only engage with your content, but connect with your brand on a human, personal level. Your customers exist for more than one buying-cycle, actively visiting your social media, website and other platforms to engage with you on a regular basis. This isn’t only due to the strength of your brand’s content, but a sign of a loyal brand community.
What Is A Brand Community?
A brand community is made up of your employees and customers who are emotionally invested in your business, showcasing brand loyalty at its best. They are excited by your content, talk to family and friends about it, recommend your products and feel emotionally connected to the brand itself. Brand communities have been known to elevate successful brands to where they are today.
The Difference Between Brand Advocates and a Brand Community
It’s important to understand the difference between brand advocacy and community, as they are easily interchangeable but shouldn’t be confused.
Brand advocates promote your brand through word of mouth marketing. For example: if you ask on Facebook for recommendations for the best running trainers, your friends can recommend the Nike Structure 22, giving Nike free marketing.
Word of mouth marketing can’t really be planned or budgeted by the brand itself, but it’s impact can be huge. At least 92% of customers seek recommendations from their friends on social media before buying a product, so having advocates for your brand on social media can heavily influence your sales.
A brand community is a form of advocacy that creates the environment for your supporters to build relationships with you and each other. Your community contains brand advocates, but it’s much larger than a handful of consumers recommending your product to friends.
Members of your community can help elevate your brand beyond a product purchase to more of a routine purchase. There is significant power in a community that goes beyond traditional marketing. If done correctly and nurtured properly, it can lead to more long term, sustainable growth without the dependence on advertising.
Why Invest in Building a Community?
Advertising on its own is no longer enough to reach and communicate with consumers, as this only creates transactional relationships. This means that your customers form buying habits based on offers, discounts and prices, detracting from the emotional relationship you want to really develop.
To create a community, you need to build relationships with your customers based upon human connection. Your community will be honest and transparent about your social content, blogs, new product launches and provide valuable feedback for improvement.
If you have already have social media or an online presence, you may already have a community. Your aim should be to identify the members, connect with them directly and build a strategy for those within the community to interact with.
Here are a few tips on how to start growing your brand community
Know your brand
In order to build a brand community, you must ensure that you know exactly who you are as a brand. This goes beyond your logo, colour palette and typography. Are your business and employees working towards achieving the company’s mission and vision? Are these a true reflection of your ethos and personality?
It is very important that your employees are part of your community. They need to believe in the brand beyond receiving a pay check at the end of the month, and this will be emulated in customer services, production, sales and beyond. This is a true testament of defining your brand, and if your employees know this then they can confidently communicate this to your consumers.
Connecting with your community
Now that you know who you are and what you stand for as a brand, you need to identify who your existing community members are and how you will reach and communicate with them. This will involve monitoring conversations about your brand, listening to your followers and analysing trends so that you can select the right channels, messages and times to engage.
The questions to ask yourself when developing the strategy for building your community are:
- Do I have captivating reasons for people to want to become members?
- What will I be doing to make it worth their time to engage with the brand and each other?
- Are the conversations I’m having on social media interactive or one-way?
- Is there an easily accessible forum or group to answer questions about the brand, products or services?
- How do I measure the contribution the community is making to the brand and business objectives?
- What are the best metrics to track community performance?
Platforms Best for Fostering Brand Communities
Now it gets a bit more interesting; there are many different platforms, but we recommend trying one or both of the following platforms based on what may be best for your brand.
The technical definition of a forum is: an online space where people can post questions, thoughts and ideas about almost anything. They are usually hosted on a brand’s website, creating a fantastic space for starting conversations about any topics that are important to the community.
Forums can also be very useful for brands who are trying to better understand their audiences. They can gather information to see what their most loyal customers are saying, understand their wants and needs and use these insights to develop their personas and find new customers. They can even be used to help brands modify or launch new products.
Facebook & LinkedIn groups
Facebook and LinkedIn groups can be used in a very similar way to forums. Rather than hosted on a brand’s website, they can be created by the brand for customers using Facebook and LinkedIn.
Open social media pages and business profiles are also great places to start the basis for your brand community. However, closed groups where people can voice their opinions, reviews, concerns and just start conversations are a much more effective platform. Your customers are more likely to feel as though they are part of something, taking part in discussions, fostering relationships with each other and building their emotional connection to your brand.
Community management is a powerful tool to help grow and manage your social media community with ease. It also has the potential to build a strong sense of brand loyalty, increase conversion and sales, and showcase the most human side of your brand personality.
Growing an online community encourages customers, employees, and followers to collaborate and provide feedback that will enable brands to form healthy connections and learn valuable information.
As platforms increasingly offer more ways to interact with users, there are an infinite amount of ways brands can target, reach, and retain their audience. Considering the rise in daily opportunities to interact with followers, staying in touch with your audience is more important now than ever.
Get started by identifying your brand’s target audience, developing a meaningful strategy, plan ahead, and always measuring your results.
Not sure how to get started? That’s what we’re here for! Contact us now to grab and coffee and discuss how we can help grow your brand online.