We all have a fundamental need to belong. In fact, this is not unique to humanity; some animals only survive or thrive in groups as well. The foundation of a community is built upon support from acquaintances or family, as well as shared interests or backgrounds. Churches, schools, clubs, neighborhoods are some of the primary ways people get a sense of community or togetherness. Brands can create a community using the same methodology: a group of people that are all passionate or interested in a central topic.
Why Should Community Marketing be Important to Brands?
Community marketing's primary objective is to help companies engage with members of their target audience through their products, creating an engaged and long-term audience of customers. A key component to true lifecycle marketing, creating an active brand community can keep the same customers coming back to your brand again and again. It is a pillar of brand loyalty.
Community marketing leverages the power of social media or other online platforms to build meaningful relationships with consumers. Many consumers want to get the "brand perspective" on various topics they are interested in, and this can impact how the community members interact. Many companies underestimate the influence they may have to start meaningful conversations online. Fitness, beauty, and lifestyle brands often do this quite well as consumers of these products are addressing needs that are quite personal, like their appearance or health, and they crave a safe space to discuss those needs. Organizations doing community marketing well are hosting and owning that safe space for discussion.
What Goes Into a Successful Community Marketing Plan?
There are a few crucial aspects to establishing a healthy community marketing strategy. One component of this involves creating messaging that focuses on everything your target consumers love doing. Look at the broader universe surrounding your product and the problems it solves.
Savage X Fenty did this successfully when they set out to have a unique discussion around body positivity and inclusivity in the lingerie space. Their approach in setting up email lists, and Facebook groups, and community boards, all added to that sense of togetherness where many people of different backgrounds could connect on feeling "on the outside" with other lingerie companies marketing tactics. The result of this harmonious messaging resulted in incredible growth for the brand. Making your company mission about more than just a set of products brings customers or prospective customers together, getting them psyched about what they already have a genuine interest in.
Advantages of Initiating and Running a Brand Community
If you still have doubts about using community marketing for your business, here are some benefits that might help you make up your mind.
- Improved customer experience for your prospects. By constantly interacting with the community, you get first-hand information about customer satisfaction. In turn, you can use this info to upgrade your products to suit their needs.
- Increased customer retention and brand growth. An effective program seeks to build loyalty in customers who buy from your brand severally. The goal of every business is to achieve loyal relationships with their customers.
- Instead of monitoring your brand reputation like an eagle overlooking an expansive landscape, with community marketing you're more like a deer living within the environment, overhearing what is being said and interacting with the other creatures in your brand forest. Your company becomes an integral part of the conversation. The opportunity to answer questions, redirect customers, and have ownership over public opinion in this way, especially if there are any questions being thrown your way from a PR standpoint, is invaluable.
- New members of the community easily become your customers. Although a larger following does not always translate to more significant sales, you get new customers from the brand awareness that comes through your existing customers interacting and enjoying the community.
- The business grows organically. Thriving communities have people willing to share their good experiences with the world. These advocates can result in tremendous growth, and this kind of engagement becomes a great funnel and natural segue into ambassador, influencer, or affiliate marketing strategies.
- Customers can feel the product's authenticity. We all know that advertising can sometimes be a bit fabricated. Community branding brings out honesty and transparency, resulting in an authentic feel to your product and brand.
Misconceptions Surrounding Community Marketing
Even with many benefits to businesses that use community marketing, the lack of clarity in some areas has led to misconceptions surrounding it. Let's look at a few that are the most common.
- An extensive community is always the best.
- Communities can only spring up naturally.
- A product can only have a single community branding.
- All the members should be customers.
Best Ways to Start and Run Community Marketing
If you are starting or want to better your strategy, brace yourself and put your best foot forward. You do not want your audience feeling too much pressure, coercion, or any form of spam. Here are some tips to get you started without coming across too "salesy."
- Interact with the members of the community on general topics surrounding your industry. Start with an internal brainstorm session to have a full list of ideas that you can refer back to whenever in doubt. Remember too that you're facilitating conversations, not lecturing. No need to stand on a pulpit and declare things–ask questions and let the community bring their ideas to you. The community will tell you what they care about and want to discuss.
- Exercise your expertise in the specific field. If you strike your followers as an expert, people will start coming at you with questions and seeking clarification. Seek more knowledge in the niche and focus on helping your audience build their expertise. Positioning multiple employees as thought leaders and including them in the engagement process also builds authority for your company and humanizes the interactions that take place.
- Be reachable. Group participation alone is not enough. Show up regularly, respond to direct messages, and avoid ignoring reactions. After all, you want followers to see your brand as authentic and human.
- Be consistent. If it has been a while since you created a community and no one has shown up yet, or you can only hear cricket noises, don't lose hope. Keep sharing, and in time, the audience will gain confidence in your products and their ability to contribute in a meaningful way.
- Engage with the audience. This is the surefire way to quickly learn what your community values and what they appreciate, between plain posts and videos. If you can also do a poll, that would come in handy. Sometimes simply liking, commenting, or tagging community members is enough to make people feel they are important to the company.
Community marketing contributes significantly to accelerated growth and a positive brand reputation. Incorporating this channel as a tactic can help keep company goals in line with the audience's wants. Identify the best platform for building your community based on where you believe your existing target market spends their time online.
Once your organic social media strategy is inline, MarinOne can assist in continuing to drive brand awareness, revenue growth, and holistic omnichannel analysis. Our tool provides an all-in-one place to see how all your campaigns are performing against each other, and how organic channels are assisting paid channels. Speak to our marketing team of experts today to learn more about cross-channel paid media management.