Imagine cultivating a group of customers who follow you beyond the products you offer. These communities display brand loyalty at its finest! If people in your brand community are emotionally invested, they will invest financially too!
What is a brand community?
Imagine cultivating a group of customers who follow you beyond the products you offer. These communities display brand loyalty at its finest! If people in your brand community are emotionally invested, they will invest financially too! Because of this, you can expect them to consume your content, tell family and friends all about it, and so much more.
But beware! Brand community is often confused with brand awareness.
Brand communities are the people who keep up with all your content on social media and share your products/services and content with others. In other words, they love seeing what your brand has to offer.
To put it simply, a brand community is a place for people who prioritize establishing an emotional connection to your brand and meaningful connections with other consumers who feel the same way.
What makes a great brand community?
A brand community is not a marketing strategy, but a business one. Thus, perception and value are more important to measuring its success than KPIs. Here are some key characteristics that make up a great brand community:
Countless brands are jumping on the bandwagon of customer engagement, but few have a deep understanding of what it truly means to build an engaged community. Successful online communities don’t just hold your hand through marketing campaigns — they offer immersive spaces for customers to connect and find solutions together with their followers or peers in real time. If you create this type of experience, then loyalty will follow without a doubt.
The internet is full of dead ends. Because of this, too often customers are left wanting answers about their most pressing questions and end up getting redirected for hours on end before finding what they're looking for - a very frustrating ordeal! A brand community with collaborative capabilities bridges that gap by allowing members to ask questions without feeling like you've wasted your time or theirs.
As much as asking questions is important, allowing customers to chip in and present their own ideas can also be incredibly beneficial for a brand. This is the case with LEGO and their collaboration efforts. Only a few brands have done it like them: LEGO’s online community has long been a space where users can share ideas and engage with the brand in an interactive way. The content the company focuses on has two sides: First, users can suggest ideas to the community and the most innovative ones will get a chance to be featured in LEGO’s newest product. Second, users can also share their own experiences and special memories with LEGO toys in the community, creating a space of inclusiveness and emotional connection to the brand. These types of exchanges allowed the company to experience incredible growth and a loyal customer base, as well as encouraging a direct point of contact between user and brand.
The most successful brands know that a community is only as good as the people in it. By adding an AI-driven layer of personalized experience, each member will be able to have their needs met while being taken care of on a consistent basis - which means more value than ever before.
Over the last years, personalization has played a very big role in shaping brand communities through social commerce. Companies such as GetBee are leading the way and creating hyper personalized shopping experiences for customers around the world. Through their immersive video capabilities, GetBee allows shoppers to chat to a salesperson without having to step foot in a store. Because employees have the knowledge and expertise to guide customers through the virtual store, users feel more in control of their situation and most importantly, they feel valued and seen. Through this type of personalization, the brand is able to create a true loyal community that just keeps coming back for more!
If you want to create a community around your brand, it’s important that the ideas and beliefs behind it serve a purpose for customers. After all, if there isn’t an issue or problem that needs to be solved for users, then what is the point of having the app in the first place?
Benefits of building a successful brand community
One of the best things about owning your own community is that you'll have complete control over what content and visual identity is presented to the public. This can also create a sense of exclusivity between a brand and its customers, just like if they were on subscription-based websites. Below are some of the key benefits of building a brand community:
Increased customer retention
Fostering your own brand community through apps is a great way to ensure that it will be used more often and for longer periods. When people are enthusiastic about what you're doing, they'll want other members in the group too - this makes retention a cheaper alternative because there's less need for acquisition costs.
A great example of customer retention was seen in Amity’s partnership with True ID. By integrating engaging features into their platform such as Live Chats and Streaming, the company was able to get users to consistently access the app for entertainment, casual viewing, and much more. In the end, this alliance was a total success: Over 1 million messages were delivered per second, with loads more time spent in-app, and millions of users feeling the excitement of having a platform that they could go to every day. Users were encouraged to explore the brand and be a part of the community, making them ideal brand advocates.
Creation of valuable brand advocates
Sometimes it's hard to get the word out about your company. But what if you had an army for this? An online community of loyal followers who would always be ready to give you glowing reviews and positive feedback? Community members that would tell their friends all they know about your brand? This is why it’s important to transform your community members into brand advocates – by doing this, they have the power to act as a community megaphone and can influence others to enjoy your brand experience.
For instance, implementing in-app social features such as in-app messaging and videos in your platform can help boost engagement. In turn, this facilitates discussions between brands and users, and increases user-generated content. Let’s face it: Your fans are the most valuable assets you have. They create authentic content that reduces skepticism, distrust and suspicion from new users - which means having them on your side is critical for building loyalty with everyone else.
My Starbucks, Starbucks’s online community, is a great example of a brand that has had great success in creating and maintaining valuable brand advocates. Their master tactic started out with only a few users, but evolved into one of their most cherished achievements – members can get the opportunity to have their ideas shared on the Starbucks blog and even earn money for their contributions. To grow their community even more, Starbucks gave prompt replies to customers on their online platform, thus enhancing engagement and loyalty to the brand. This is quite a lesson to learn, given that Starbucks has turned their online community into one of the most popular in the world!
Better customer experience
Online communities are a great way to get feedback from your customers and learn about their experiences. You can use this data as input for improving future customer interactions, which will make every interaction with the brand more enjoyable for everyone involved!
As a company that has always cared deeply about their customers, Apple's Support Communities is a space for feedback, self-service support and knowledge sharing that fuels engagement among its active fan base. As users share content to fuel discussions and interact with gamification that rewards positive contributions, the company has made it easier than ever before to improve their customer experience!
Added value for members
Customers can earn value not just from their purchase, but also from seeing what other people are saying about your products. Therefore, this enables them to make a more informed decision on your purchase, which in turns helps boost revenue and creates positive customer feedback.
For Airbnb, an online marketplace for booking accommodations founded in 2007, the company was able to provide their customers with value well beyond the initial purchase. One of the driving forces behind its enormous success is that it offers membership opportunities for hosts where they can provide tips and tricks to make the customer experience more enjoyable. Hosts can also connect guests with other people through social events organized locally or in an online space, as well as providing insight on what's going around town so people don't have any surprises when traveling there.
Less dependence on ads
How did you make your most recent purchases from your favorite brands? Were you waiting for them to have a sale or waiting until you came across an ad? Most likely, you didn’t. That’s because we generally shop with brands we have an emotional connection with, not because of discounts or flashing ads in our faces.
When you establish a strong online brand community, it draws people to your brand by tapping into what truly motivates them – their emotions.
Unfortunately, marketers can never be authentic from their side of the conversation. Therefore, user-generated content is the best way to influence other people positively, increase your brand loyalty and help you attract new users. In a survey, 79% of customers reported that UGC highly impacts their purchasing decision. At the end of the day, a successful brand community leverages this business strategy and realizes that, with UGC, users are more likely to trust the content and the brand as a whole.
A great example of this was seen in Amity’s partnership with Perxhealth, a chronic condition management program, where Amity was able to provide the company with the opportunity to engage its users in a fun and interactive activity: “Share a picture of your pet.” Perxhealth patients shared a picture of their dog or any other animal that had a unique connection to them using a Feed, and described how much these animals meant to them. Being able to involve something as special as a pet to the community saw many patients interacting on the platform and enjoying their time reaching out to others who were sharing similar experiences. This simple act got users motivated to keep using the platform, not because they saw an ad or marketing campaign, but because they had a strong emotional connection to the community developed through user-generated content.
If you're looking for ways to improve your company's public image, there are many good opportunities waiting. By posting interesting and engaging content on a popular forum (and making sure that it isn't just any old post), an organization can draw attention from all over the web! For example: go directly to community members or create campaigns with them where everyone works together as one cohesive unit towards something meaningful.
How to Build One?
Step 1: Figure out your Community
Compile a list of customers. This can be from social media accounts, email lists, and real life connections. If you have an existing group of customers on a Facebook Group, this is a clear sign to merge your community members and user-generated content under your brand.
Step 2: Leverage the online community
It is crucial to understand about your existing community and how they engage before you invest time and money into building a branded community.
Step 3: Manage community members
Once you have your online community off the ground, it's time to start up that delicate dance. The real challenge begins in deciding how much guidance or control should be given by one company over interactions between users. With new groups of passionate customers and followers, who will be advocating for them? Some companies take an approach that encourages organic growth, letting members decide what types of conversations happen within certain areas while also allowing some space where brands can chime-in if needed.
Step 4: Boost community engagement
Engaged customers turn into empowered and loyal customers, hence it is important to put effort into boosting community engagement. This means that creating a plan is essential.
So, what are some ways that you can do that?
Build a community
Building a community is the first step in creating and maintaining engaged customers. Adding social features to an online platform such as Videos and Chats can get the conversation started, inspiring users to learn more about your brand on a daily basis. Online communities also help to add real value, something that most brands lack nowadays.
Offer real value
Offering real value starts and ends with quality content. Customers gravitate towards content that tells a story and is true to its core. This means that, as a brand, the information that you put out needs to be valuable to customers and at the same time, hit their main pain-points. How does your content help others solve their issues? Does it inspire people to come back for more? Content that holds real value is more than a buzz statement, it’s a pivotal marketing strategy that can keep your customers coming back for more.
Every brand, whether big or small, has an incredible opportunity to inspire their customers and people around their network. Inspiration breeds engagement. One way to inspire customers is to share your brand’s vision.
Especially for brands wanting to inspire next generations through innovative technology, the content that you put out needs to be relevant and most importantly, it needs to be aligned with your target audience. A great example to incorporate all of these tips is to make your brand an agent of change. Whether posting information about how your brand tackles climate change or how you provide new sustainable solutions to e-commerce, be the voice that people want to hear. Engagement will follow swiftly after!
Step 5: Track key metrics and optimize
You need to understand the goal for your brand community by obtaining the right key metrics and actively measuring them. Key metrics can be measured in the following ways:
Number of downloads
Monitoring your app in this way can give you great insight into the success of your marketing tactics and whether or not you should highlight some areas for improvement.
Activation rate starts where the number of downloads ends. To really understand if your app is engaging people, you should look into this measure which calculates the percentage of people not only downloaded, but also opened your app.
After figuring out how many people downloaded your app and how many of those started using it, you need to calculate information about the people who regularly use the platform. These can be segmented into Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU).
Average visit time
The average visit time is another important app-success metric. This feature explains how long users spent on your app, helping you determine the overall user experience.
User retention is a fundamental metric because it shows you how often users return to your app. With high user retention rates, you can guarantee that your app is performing and engaging users like it should.
Finally, you need to determine how many people decide to stop using your app and this is directly linked to your retention rate.
Why building your own brand communities matters
We are all humans and we cherish and value the same things. We all want to be seen, heard, and to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We are suckers for a larger cause and communities are at the forefront of what makes us the creatures that we are. By putting consistent community building efforts into your brand, nurturing it, giving it what it needs every single day, customers are more able to connect between each other and with people who share the same interests as them.
As soon as your users get this connection, they can start engaging more with your platform and become active brand advocates. Once you make this shift to your strategy (which, given the pace technology is evolving, it’s better to start now!), you can expect great results, both for your users and your brand!