You’ve probably heard the term “brand community” being mentioned more and more especially as consumers are craving deeper and more meaningful relationships with brands.
And that’s because marketers are getting smarter about how to drive awareness, loyalty and sales. This time, brands are creating ways to strengthen the relationship between the company and the current customers.
You might be asking yourself, “Why invest more in people who are already customers instead of investing in finding new customers?”
Well, because a brand community is a powerful asset for the company’s success.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. First, let’s see some statistics about brand communities:
- According to the 2020 Community Industry Trends Report, 88% of community professionals believe that community is critical to the company’s mission.
- 83% of consumers say word of mouth has an influence on their purchasing decisions.
- 64% of marketers agree that word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing.
- Consumers talk about brands casually 90 times per week
- Consumers are 4 to 6 times more likely to purchase and champion purpose-driven companies
You could say that behind every great brand there’s a great community.
However, if you’re not sure about investing in your brand community or you don’t know where to start, it’s a good thing you’re here.
This in-depth guide will help you understand the most important aspects of brand communities, how to start building your own and growing it.
Feel free to skip to the section you are interested in.
What is a brand community?
Let’s begin this guide by defining exactly what is a brand community.
A brand community is a group of engaged customers that have a strong emotional connection to a brand. This community purchases the brand’s products, interacts with their digital content and is already promoting the brand within their inner circle. They’re not just interested, they’re invested.
As you can see, the members of a brand community are dedicated fans who feel an emotional connection with them. In fact, they are so invested, that they become advocates without being paid or rewarded.
Just think about sneakerheads, for example. People who love sneaker brands so much that they have become a big part of their lives.
Starbucks is another great example of a brand with a passionate community.
But it’s not all about the products. Products might be what initially appeals to customers, but your brand is much more than that.
People can feel a connection with a brand’s ethos. A connection so strong that supporting your brand can be rewarding in itself.
The main point is that your loyal customers want to see your brand grow almost as much as you do.
Making them feel part of your community is the best way to build a lasting relationship that benefits both. Not only does it help you connect more deeply with your customers, but it allows them to connect with each other as well.
Why you should have a brand community
Let’s run through the specific benefits of building a strong brand community. These benefits include:
- Increase brand loyalty
Being a part of a brand community strengthens the emotional connection between customers and the brand.
53% of Americans who follow a brand on social media are more loyal to the brand.
By engaging these customers directly, you deepen that connection and influence a repeat purchase, a shared piece of content, or even a new referral. It’s important to nurture these customer relationships to maintain and strengthen those bonds.
Brand loyalty has a very important role in customer retention as you might imagine. Let’s put this benefit in perspective:
65% of a brand’s business comes from existing customers.
Fortunately, growing and improving your brand community will come with brand loyalty and customer retention, it’s a package.
The more passionate a customer is about your brand, the more purchases they will make. A study from Harvard Business School shows that increasing customer retention by a rate of only 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.
By creating meaningful conversations, your customers feel like your brand is approachable and that it cares, resulting in higher brand loyalty.
Recommended: How to Increase Brand Loyalty
- Gain insights on your customers
A brand community helps you learn more about what your customers want. Customers will definitely have opinions about your brand, some good and some bad.
You should take advantage of this opportunity to get feedback and optimize your processes.
Think about your brand community as a focus group. You can directly gain more insight into what your customers want (or don’t want). When you ask your community for feedback directly, you eliminate any ambiguity or guesswork around everything, from the products or services you offer to the way you market them.
By opening up conversations with your community, you can also build a greater sense of transparency and authenticity.
- Convert casual customers into advocates
By engaging with your community through more meaningful interactions and strengthening their emotional connection to your brand, you are setting the stage for a casual customer to become a brand advocate.
The difference between those two types of customers is that one likes your brand, while the other loves it, resulting in recommendations.
Meaningful and positive interactions can turn into word-of-mouth referrals to your customers’ friends and family.
How to build a brand community
If you have customers, then you have the first and most important ingredient for a brand community.
To turn this community into a powerful tool for your business, these are the things you need to do:
Think about your brand
First, you have to define what your brand is. As we previously mentioned, for your customers to feel connected with your brand, they need more than just products.
Define your ethos, mission, values, brand voice and the personality of your brand.
Ultimately, you want to define what you want to be remembered for. In addition, remember that these things have to be aligned with your target audience.
Defining these aspects of your brand will make the difference between having customers, and having an emotionally connected community.
Define your goals and KPIs
Then, you can define what your goals are. Brand communities are great for driving awareness, getting recurring customers, referrals and much more.
Before committing to any plan, ask yourself:
What do you want to get out of your brand community?
- Insights to make more customer-driven decisions?
- User generated content?
By defining what your goals are, you can set a clear strategy to engage and achieve them organically.
Defining your goals also means defining what you are going to track.
Analytics and metrics will be your best friend to know what’s working and what isn’t.
Constant optimization is required to maintain an active community, so start by choosing the metrics you want to measure.
- Number of referrals
- Clicks to your site
Once you know what to track, you can establish KPIs (key performance indicators) to know how successful your marketing efforts have been.
Generate quality content
Content is the place where your community interacts.
Whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook, website, forum, or any other digital space, your customers need content to engage with your brand and with each other.
Otherwise, there will be no real community.
First, think about the platforms where you want your community to interact. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Blog?
Focus on producing great content in the main spaces where your loyal fans are. You don’t need to be active in every social media at first. Generally, Instagram is where customers are most active.
Now, look at examples of good content from other companies and brainstorm ideas. Try to be as unique and fun as possible. Remember that the main goal is to keep your community engaged, so try to speak directly to your customers instead of posting simple pictures of your products.
Products are great, but be interactive. Amazing content will go a long way.
Encourage user generated content
Speaking of amazing content, user generated content (UGC) is a great way to grow your community organically.
92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising.
With user generated content we mean social media posts talking about your company and products.
Some people like to talk and recommend brands for fun on their social media, so there will naturally be UGC about your products.
However, you can (and should) promote this type of content because it spreads your message to new people from a face they trust.
A tip we can give you to encourage user generated content is to interact with it as much as possible. By reacting and commenting on related posts, you’re telling people that you listen to your customers. And since you are listening to them, they will want to post more.
This is a simple idea that can get you far but there is another way to encourage UGC.
Invite brand ambassadors
Brand ambassadors are people who are selected by brands to represent them in a positive light, driving awareness and sales.
You can invite your biggest fans to create content and talk about your brand to other people through social media or in person. This way, you reward them for creating content that aligns with your brand and the target audience.
It’s not necessary to reward them with cash payments, although you can. If you choose the right ambassadors, they already love your products so you can offer them in lieu of cash.
Brand ambassadors are probably the biggest tool for building and growing your community. We’ve written many pieces about brand ambassadors, so make sure you check them out.
Recommendation: How To: Find The Best Ambassadors For Your Brand
Interact with your customers
As we mentioned before, interacting with your customers and ambassadors through social media can have a big impact on your brand community.
Engagement goes both ways. People will engage with your content but there won’t be an emotional connection unless there is some kind of engagement back.
Generally, the right strategy will depend on what connects with your target audience.
In regards to brand ambassadors, there needs to be effective communication and interaction because you want them to be as active as possible. Their role in the community is key.
The main goal is to make your ambassadors feel like part of the company. Here are a few things you should do:
- Check in regularly
- Offer exclusive rewards
- Provide positive reinforcement
- Ask for feedback
- Have authentic conversations
Most importantly, be creative and find new ways to strengthen the relationship with both customers and ambassadors.
Rewards or affiliate programs
Establishing rewards or affiliate programs is another way of strengthening your brand community. This type of strategy is effective because people like rewards and being part of an exclusive club.
Rewards are a great way to promote repeat purchases and drive growth. Consider offering one of these programs according to your goals and budget.
Brand ambassadors can help you promote the programs effectively since they are trusted faces inside your community.
Take your brand community to the next level
If you have customers, you have a community. However, having an emotionally connected community is a very different thing.
We’ve explored the benefits of the latter and it’s clear that a brand community can drive awareness, brand loyalty, and sales.
In this guide we’ve covered the most important aspects of starting and managing a brand community, now it’s time to apply them.
To take your community to the next level:
- Know your customers
- Generate quality content
- Find brand ambassadors
- Use smart tools like SocialLadder
Building a brand community isn’t just a way to connect with your customers, it’s a way to make more customer-driven decisions and achieve your growth goals organically.Whether you’re just looking to start building your community or looking to optimize it, we’ve created a series of eBooks to help you at every stage of the process. Check them out here!
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