Communities can both humanise a brand and make customers feel valued through experiences or direct communication. It also helps strengthen retention and advocacy to ultimately attract new consumers. Benji Vaughan, Founder/CEO of Disciple Media offers some key tips on how to build a powerful brand community from the ground up.
With consumers yielding more power than ever before, marketers are struggling to find new and impactful ways to engage with increasingly informed and global customer bases. As a result, they’ve been forced to transform their marketing strategies and focus their efforts on building meaningful relationships which are driven by meaningful connections.
Brand communities have emerged as a viable option for marketers, offering an ownable and valuable alternative to traditional social media networks where they risk losing control of their customers, data and revenue as this duopoly continues to dictate the terms of advertising.
Brands such as Harley-Davidson, who have invested in the long-term nurturing of their own brand communities, have proven that an engaged and committed investment to retain customers reaps rewards.
Communities can both humanise a brand and make customers feel valued through experiences or direct communication. It also helps strengthen retention and advocacy to ultimately attract new consumers. So how can marketers build a powerful community from the ground up?
Here are my top tips for building and maintaining a powerful brand community.
Answer the why
It may seem obvious but clearly defining the purpose of your community is what will determine its success or failure. Marketers that fail to engage the right audience could see their initial brand following quickly walk away.
This doesn’t necessitate a grand vision. Brands can profit from establishing micro-communities but this requires narrowing down on passion. For example, The Boot Camper has created a space to connect a community of varying fitness levels to ensure they feel empowered and supported on their journey. The app also features a growing library of boot camp videos, follow along workouts and much more.
Another great example of this is Harley-Davidson, which has long been famed for its brand community. For more than 14 years, it has maintained a passionate online community which offers fans a dedicated space to authentically engage and connect with the brand. The products engender an emotional attachment in consumers, inspiring them to personalise and customise their bikes as well as join formal and informal chapters or attend events where they can ride them. All this has been underpinned by a strong origin story brand, synonymous with freedom and a counter-culture.
Create a loyal community by incentivising actions
To boost engagement, marketers should consider offering incentives to reward their loyal members and attract new ones. Our survey of 1,001 UK consumers showed 52 percent could be encouraged to join a brand community due to an incentive, with 22 percent wanting first access to sales and other promotions.
While the ultimate goal might be to boost lifetime value, it’s not enough to be transactional or solely chase for vanity metrics. Consumers have become wise to this approach and it’s crucial that any incentives offer value for both the brand and community. Engagement is key
For decades the benchmark for user participation on large scale, multi-user communities and online social networks has been perceived to follow the 90-9-1 rule. This participation model, which was first introduced in the early 90s, suggests that 90 percent of users are lurkers, 9 percent contribute from every so often and only 1% participate and are accountable for the majority of contributions and engagement.
While 100 percent user participation isn’t a realistic target, branded communities have emerged as a solution which can help achieve significantly higher engagement and user participation levels than a measly 1 percent.
Many brands and creators have already begun to put community building and community engagement strategies at the heart of their marketing efforts, and it’s not hard to see why. For starters, these communities can help drive more leads, improve brand loyalty and increase user retention. Also, let’s not forget that having an active and engaged community is a lot more cost-effective than having to invest a tonne of cash on Facebook or AdWords to drive more leads.
Despite these clear benefits, marketers can’t afford to become complacent. Strong engagement requires interaction. Dialogue is key to achieving this, so it’s important that you encourage honest and open discussion from day one, and seek out new ways to interact and drive participation, such as competitions or rewards for inviting new members.
The role of content
Content is the tool that empowers communities to share and engage with a common vision. Great content is what allows brands to sustain engagement and can help give marketers a measure of control over how their brand is interpreted.
When creating content, It’s important to keep in mind that not all consumers are created equal. Getting community content right will vary by sector and target audience.
Start by trying to understand customer passion points, then consider how you can provide sought after, unique and original content. For example, an exclusive interview, behind-the-scenes footage or the opportunity to shape a campaign or the development of a specific product.
Getting it right
It’s important to remember that building and maintaining a powerful brand community takes time and success can’t be achieved overnight. Marketers looking to build and maintain brand communities need to carefully consider the value they can offer their community, beyond just connecting consumers with like-minded individuals who share their passions. This requires a well thought out engagement and content strategy which keeps consumers at the heart and focuses on nurturing and maintaining long term relationships with their audience.
By Benji Vaughan
Founder and CEO