With the rise of various social media engagement groups, more and more brands are starting to create their own brand communities. They’re realizing that these community members will be their main stakeholders who will help to promote their brand and increase their brand engagement.
The Power of a Brand community?
We’re entering a new era of customer communication. Rather than just using social media as a tool to amplify their voices, brands are now discovering what happens when you connect customers with each other too. Let’s take Peloton as an example, they sell high quality exercise bikes with huge in-built screens where exercise classes are streamed every day. Yet they realised that wasn’t enough. Their product was high quality, technically advanced and very convenient, but it completely lacked the camaraderie, accountability and community you get from going to the gym. So they began adding features that helped members connect with each other.
To enhance their brand community experience they’ve added:
- Interactive leaderboards where you can connect/follow other members (and give them virtual “high fives”)
- A “here now” feature that shows exactly which members are exercising with you at this precise moment.
- Searchable tags to help you exercise with people who share the same interests and goals as you
They’ve even integrated a video camera so, if you really desire, you can show your red, sweaty, out-of-breath face on a video call with other riders to make the experience even more “connected”.
The Competitive Advantage
Other manufacturers could potentially build new state-of-the-art exercise bikes and start streaming their own daily classes, but the community aspect is really hard to replicate. Once people have connected with one another, have formed friendships, and have felt a sense of belonging, it becomes very difficult to replace. Your brand community becomes your competitive advantage.
How does this impact you?
Peloton’s example might seem a little unrelatable, but their focus on connecting members should be something to take inspiration from. Finding ways to help your customers connect with each other can transform the experience people have with your brand.
As well as giving you a competitive advantage, a community with strong brand engagement can make a difference in several other areas of the company too:
- Improve word-of-mouth marketing
Build a remarkable experience that’s best shared with others.
- Making better product decisions
Rather than guessing what your customers want, you can work with them directly to build products and features they need.
- Reduce your support costs
Depending on your product/service, customer support can be a huge overhead that’s required to keep customers informed and satisfied. With an engaged community, many questions can be diverted from your customer service team and answered by the community members themselves.
The Community Blueprint
Choose Your Business Goal
The first step in building a community for your business is to decide why you want one at all. What business goal is it meant to serve? What are your expectations for it? How will you know if it’s successful?
- Do you hope it reduces customer acquisition costs through word-of-mouth marketing?
- Is the main purpose of the community to reduce your customer support costs?
- Do you want regular feedback to help you build better products?
It’s important to have a clear purpose for the brand community and a measurable way to see if its working – community engagement can be a great place to start.
Define Your Member Goals
After choosing the business goal, it’s time to think about the goal of the members themselves. Who are they? What do they want? What do they do together in the community?
If you already have existing customers you’re building for, you don’t have to guess the answers to these. Jump on a call with some of them and learn what they’re struggling with and consider how your community might be able to help.
Choosing the Right Medium
One of the easiest places to start building a community is on social media. Think about where your customers already exist online and meet them there. If you’re a B2C company perhaps Facebook groups might be more suitable for you, or if you’re a B2B or dealing with corporate clients LinkedIn or Slack might be better choices.
Later on, you might decide to create a community platform of your own using sites such as Discourse, Tribe or Disciple to grow your community.
You can have as many members as you want, but if nobody’s talking to each other you don’t have a social media community. Here are a few things to consider when starting out to help increase engagement:
- Create a content calendar:
Similar to social media marketing campaigns, a content calendar is key to providing value to your members and encouraging them to engage. Since connection is the goal, posts should stimulate conversations. It’s good practice to vary between polls, closed questions, open questions and other content. These posts should be relevant and tied to the goal you defined for your customers.
- Roll out the red carpet:
Members need to receive a warm welcome which helps them understand how the community is used. Consider using pinned posts or a series of welcome emails to help you tell the story of why your community exists and how it works.
- Celebrate members:
As you grow, there will be members who really start to stand out. They’re engaged, they start their own conversations and they help others out. Celebrate these members to show your appreciation and gratitude and to act as an incentive for other members.
Communities are built around conversations and you need to be a part of that conversation too. Get involved, connect with members individually, learn what works, and refine your brand community strategy as you go. There is no quick, easy method for building a thriving social media community. But if it’s done right, it could give your brand a competitive advantage in 2021 and beyond.
Tom runs Kickstart Your Community where he’s helping passionate solopreneurs build thriving communities around their businesses.
Save Me For Later - Brand Community Infographic
If you’re thinking about creating your brand community specific to a certain customer segment, make sure to read 5 Steps to Win at Market Segmentation.
Not sure how to promote your brand on your social media? Take a look at The Ultimate Guide to Brand Awareness.
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