“Brand Community” — it’s trending, and so many brands want to play a part. Does your brand have a community of loyal advocates? If not, now is the time to start building one. If you’re thinking that building a community sounds like a heavy lift, you may have guessed right, but the rewards pay off nearly tenfold when you have a loyal following that regularly and happily pays homage to your brand. So, to help you get started, we’ve put together four essential rules to make sure your new community-building project goes as smoothly as possible, without all the unnecessary bumps and roadblocks you could potentially run into. From understanding why your customers need to come first to embracing conflict, we’ve got you covered.
1. Put the customer before the business
In capital letters, let’s say it together: “The Customer Comes First.” All too often, companies forget that they are marketing to actual, authentic, intelligent and creative individuals. These people have a full range of emotions. They might like art or football, and they will all see your brand in a different light, whether or not it’s a fit for them.
As a community builder, it’s your job to get insight into their needs, desires, pain points and responsibilities. Engineer a community by helping customers meet their needs. Building a community is less about driving sales and making transactions than it is about truly connecting with consumers.
And remember people participate in communities for a diverse number of reasons — from seeking emotional encouragement to exploring new ways to contribute to the greater good and fostering new interests and skills. It’s never been easier with 64% of global consumers willing to share their data to be a part of a community. It’s actionable data, but at the heart of the matter, customers most want to be understood and treated accordingly. When you put customers first, the community will grow into itself because there will be a shared, united love of your brand.
2. Devote extra effort toward the greater good
Discovery wanted to load its marketing database with zero-party data…and lots of it. With the red letter prize of a fully-furnished waterfront home in Florida on offer, consumers were always going to enter en-masse.
Be a charitable humanitarian. Be a philanthropist. Save the lions, tigers and bears. More and more consumers — especially those of the Gen Z and Millennial generations — want to align themselves with brands that contribute to a significant values-driven cause; those consumers are even willing to abandon brands that don’t contribute to anything they care about. That said, consumers are also more interested in the social links that come from a brand’s affiliates — and not so much in the brand itself. But don’t take this as a negative!
There are several ways to create something charitable: you could dive into your customers’ needs and provide something for a specific need, or you could align your brand with something related to your product — Cheerios donates to No Kid Hungry, and Kodiak supports the Grizzly Bear and Wildlife Foundations. Not only do you cultivate your company’s persona by standing behind a good cause, but customers can also embrace the feeling of equally contributing to that cause and choosing your brand just for that reason.
3. Plant your flag here on earth
Maybe you forgot. But people still go out, and successful brands still create physical community spaces that nurture loyalty. Think — Starbucks, Gymshark and Vans. While a lot of companies carry out their “community building” on social media, many of these social loyalty groups are simple survey boxes and unfocused comment threads. There isn’t inherently anything wrong with incorporating social into your community strategy, but it’s important to remember that an online network is merely a tool.
Social media exists in people’s back pockets and purses, but where you can make a difference — it will be in the places their feet actually hit the floor. When you can establish your brand’s community in a physical space such as a coffee shop, gym or skate park, you’ll drive real emotional and social connections, worth so much more than a like or follow, those which are more likely to engender lasting loyalty.
4. Embrace conversation, storytelling, and conflict
There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition — is what highly competitive people say — but it’s true, so cultivate it as a strength, and let your customers be players for your team. This competition defines what a community is, highlighting meaningful differences and divisions, separating passionate brand advocates from the less loyal. There are “in” groups, and there are “out” groups — two groups which have substantial conversations about brand competitions. When brands allow community members to create reasonable conflict, the community culture grows and expands as loyal advocates vocalize their support. Brands serve as community agents, facilitating these conversations, making sure the environment remains a comfortable and safe space for contributors.
Engender lasting loyalty in your brand’s community
While building a community of loyal advocates may sound like quite the challenge, many brands have successfully done so and are reaping the rewards. You can join them when you’re ready! Customers long to be a part of communities that offer something both in return and to the world. Create a plan to understand your customers’ interests and needs, and once you know what they want from your brand, you can work on delivering, and the community will follow.
Cultivating loyalty is a big step– but you don’t have to start the journey alone. Learn everything you need to know in our Buyer’s Guide to Omnichannel Loyalty.