Consumers no longer wanted to be marketed to. They see through the artifice of branded content and want more relatable, transparent ads. Community marketing makes it easy for brands to market through their customers and create more authentic messaging.
Word of mouth is one of the most trusted of all forms of marketing. 86% of customers trust word-of-mouth reviews and recommendations, and people are 4 times more likely to buy a product or work with a business when referred by friends. Now, consumers have a desire to learn about products from other real people; their friends, family, and those they share a genuine connection with.
Enter community marketing: a strategy that is all about having a conversation that fits the needs of your customers, and can even turn loyal customers into natural brand advocates. Rather than focusing on acquisition, community marketing focuses on developing long-term relationships with current customers in hopes of igniting powerful and positive word of mouth conversation about your brand to their inner circle.
The more a company integrates their existing customer base into marketing and messaging, the more engaged and interactive that customer base becomes. The collaboration that occurs will in turn help grow your community, as the existing customers introduce others to your company or product.
Here are some community marketing trends that will be central to any brand in 2021, and how brands are currently implementing those to strengthen their own communities.
Employees As Extensions Of The Brand
One of the biggest trends in community marketing is brands’ adoption of employee advocacy programs. The first step in cultivating a community is starting with those who already have established a connection to your brand. Employees work daily with your product or service and are able to build long-term relationships with your customers with a more personalized approach. One company that excels at this is Peloton. The fitness company utilizes its instructors as an extension of the brand’s marketing efforts. Each instructor has their own hashtag group that Peloton users can join, initiating more personal relationships between employees and customers. These communities built around the instructors often lead to the creation of new groups across different social networks that nurture the “cult-like” following that Peloton has established through relationships with their brand fans in real life and online. Peloton instructors help layer that foundation for a long-term relationship between brand and buyer, exemplifying key tenets of employee advocacy.
Relatable and honest content is key to humanizing your company, and more brands are creating content based on their values. Consumers are no longer interested in forceful marketing techniques that talk at them and would rather engage in meaningful conversation with the brand about the things that are important to them. Tula Skincare uses Instagram as a platform to create organic conversation about their products and invite customers to provide feedback, creating a greater sense of community. Recently, the company engaged in a confidence-based content push after discovering that 70% of their customers believe beauty ads degrade people’s self confidence. To turn the message into a positive conversation, Tula turned to their ambassador community, the Glow Getters, to find concrete numbers regarding the impact of beauty ads and on each post included what Tula was doing to counteract each statistic. Not only does this shine a light toward a positive brand image, but it also sparked conversation in the comments section all about how people were positively impacted by Tula’s products and marketing efforts. Humanization matters, and Tula brilliantly used their platform to embrace that ideal.
Another popular community marketing trend is building a dedicated community of brand ambassadors who love your brand and want their friends to love it, too. Ambassadors are experts at utilizing word of mouth to generate authentic content and drive real conversions. A great example of this is Kendra Scott’s Campus Gems program. Kendra Scott looks to college students to identify potential ambassadors who have a strong circle of influence on their campus. Oftentimes, these “Gems” form a following similar to that of traditional nano or micro influencers, but are able to cultivate a much more natural conversation about the brand with their friends than traditional influencers are able to. Using SocialLadder to manage their ambassador community, Kendra Scott is able to assign tasks directly to ambassadors and give them greater access to the brand to deepen those relationships and steer the conversation from the inside.
Consumers are purchasing with purpose, choosing to buy from brands that align with their own personal values and beliefs. This has caused more brands to support social causes or activism through their community. One company that holds activism at its roots is Patagonia, acting as environmental activists and more recently, political activists. The company launched a social initiative through the hashtag #makeaplantovote, supported by video and photo content encouraging customers to register to vote in an effort to establish a green economy. The company also partnered with environmental ambassadors and political thought leaders to create engaging conversations via Instagram Live as a part of the campaign. Aligning with the brand ethos of Patagonia is only one half of the equation. What really makes the campaign work is the emphasis on creating a discussion amongst customers, informed by Patagonia, that involves the brand’s alignment with helping the environment. Discussing the effects of climate change or environmental occurrences encourages customers to engage with each other and with the company in a way that aligns naturally with their shared affinities.
Your customers live and breathe your product. Community marketing enables you to create more genuine and lasting connections with these passionate customers, helping to tell your brand’s story with authentic brand love. By marketing through your customers, your brand can more easily create organic relationships with existing and future customers.