Build your own brand community: A beginner’s guide
Connection and community have always been important for our emotional and physical well-being, but as feelings of isolation and loneliness are on the rise due to social distancing measures, people now crave it more than ever before.
Brand communities have been an effective marketing strategy and if done right, can also positively impact customers’ well-being. A brand community is formed around a group of people who share the mission and values of a brand. It is composed of a core group of like-minded people who possess similar interests, and can easily find a common language.
In a successful community, the brand serves just as a starting point for ongoing dialogue and exchange. A brand community encourages customer loyalty and interest, increases feedback and activity on forums, and is great for SEO. Moreover this community is often a driver for word-of-mouth advertising - its members advertise and promote the brand among family, friends, and colleagues at no added cost.
Most big brands already have communities. What are the benefits for a smaller brand?
1. Brand Awareness
Creating a community around your brand is one of the most effective ways to educate your customers and share information about your product or service. More than 80% of customers trust a recommendation of a product or service when it comes from a friend, meaning that word-of-mouth advertising is a highly effective tool to promote your brand without being intrusive.
2. Knowledge Sharing
A brand community gives customers a sense of belonging, connecting them culturally and individually. Customers can share their problems, seek tips and advice, and ultimately create an effective platform for Q&A and constant customer support.
A brand community has the potential to tremendously decrease the workload of your customer service department and serve as a source of inspiration for further product creation and consumer insights.
3. Brand Loyalty
Bringing power users together and providing them with the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions is an effective way to boost loyalty. Empower your customers to be experts and advocates to build a deeper connection with your brand.
How can I create a brand community?
Brand communities are all about passion for a product, shared values, support, and the exchange of experiences. In order to foster this, it is important to create an environment where people feel comfortable speaking out, and that their opinions are important. How is this achieved? Here are some preliminary things to consider when creating a new brand community:
- Define your brand values. This is the foundation of your brand and what your image and community are based upon. There are two ways to approach this: You can Identify the values of your target audience, or you can simply determine what is important to you and what attracts people who share your values to the larger community.
- Choose a tone. To determine the right tone, answer this question: “How should the client feel when receiving communications from us?”
- Start a dialogue. Discuss interesting and engaging topics to promote interaction. Get the conversation going and then guide people towards a conversation that no longer requires your involvement. This can be difficult to achieve but is worth your time.
- Ask for feedback. “Thank you, your feedback is very important to us!” - is stale. Let community members feel that they can really influence the development of the company. This creates a sense of ownership and connection.
- Engage influencers. Invite them to write a guest post or answer questions from subscribers. Remember that it’s better to form authentic relationships with a few small bloggers who actually use your product or service than a superficial connection to one big blogger who is ultimately indifferent to your brand.
- Organize offline events. It is important to interact with people not only online, but also in real life. You can throw big festivals, or you can hold small thematic gatherings. It can be coffee meetings, where you discuss a predetermined topic, collective trips to the theater, park, nature, or even a thoughtful workshop on a shared interest.
How do I get started?
Having evaluated the benefits, and understanding what value you can bring to your customers through building a community, here are the practical first steps to start building your community:
1. Spread information about your brand: its values, mission, and purpose, then promote it via social networks, blogs, media portals, and influencers.
2. Find the right platform. Choose a community-building tool to connect like-minded people around your product and brand values and create a place where it’s easy for your customers to share ideas and give feedback.
With Panion Communities, we do all the hard work for you, by providing a digital space where the magic of community can flourish.
3. Initiate conversation and encourage discussion. Now that you’ve found the right tool for building your community, you need to engage your customers and followers so they can start exchanging thoughts, can offer reviews on your product, and can ask directly for advice through your platform.
As they get to know each other, the discussion will begin to flow. Identify your most active participants, your “opinion leaders” and nurture those relationships. They are the key to building the core of your community.
Maintaining a community takes consistent effort. At no point can you just let it run free. Yet at the same time it will take organic shape and that core you worked hard to build will expand over time.
More importantly, the community will be a rewarding asset for your brand and an authentic opportunity for your customers to find meaningful connections that enrich their everyday lives; and the happiness that these new connections will bring to your customers will be directly associated with your brand and your community.