How high does your brand rank the importance of community? Does your brand have a community? Are you wondering where to start? Truth is, many companies underestimate the power of community building and miss out on the opportunity to strengthen their brand’s reputation and greatly increase communication with their customers.
Developing a brand community helps you bring your most loyal customers together and turns them into ambassadors for your brand as they share information with each other as well as prospective customers.
So, what exactly is a brand community? How do you build one? Let's find out together.
The term “brand community” is often confused with “brand awareness”, but awareness really only covers the number of people who know your brand exists and have a general idea of what it stands for.
Think of your brand community as your fans. These are the people who follow you on social media, respond to your posts, share your content, etc.
This is where people develop an emotional connection to your brand. Often a brand community will coalesce around something specific like your social media channels, but sometimes it diffuses across multiple platforms.
Any brand can create a community or find and network with an established one. This provides you with access to everything, good and bad, being said about your products, company, and industry.
Before we go into the nitty gritty of brand communities, let's look at some examples of brands that have built their own.
First, we'll start with two examples of B2B brand communities.
Webflow hosts their brand community on their own site, encouraging users to sign up for a free account so they can attend events, get help, contribute resources, etc. This is fairly typical of code platforms, many of which have assets and resources that can be transferred between users on their site. It’s such a huge focus of theirs that they have a link to their community page right in their navigation menu as well as a robust forum.
By allowing and encouraging peer support, the strain on Webflow's customer service team is reduced whilst improving communication with users who do need their help.
Search engine optimization tool SEMrush does regular chats on Twitter, including this one about how to build a community. Because part of what they do is help with brand management, they use social media to develop their own brand community, and then share their knowledge with others. Their community is primarily on Twitter.
These two companies show different approaches for B2B: self hosting your brand community or using social media. In each case, it fits with the kind of community they need. Webflow needs a way people can share tools and code in a safe and secure way, requiring their own site. SEMrush uses social media because it is what they do as a marketing and search engine optimization company.
Business to consumer communities rely on the same things as B2B communities, but are mostly composed of "fans" who spend their personal time/money on the brand’s products/services.
LEGO's brand community has a name: LEGO Ideas. Like Webflow, they self host their brand community on their site. The primary purpose of LEGO Ideas is to allow enthusiasts, of all ages, to show off their LEGO designs, trade and share them, and enter competitions. Again, this is a community that is focused on content, and that content needs to be carefully curated. LEGO recognizes many of their enthusiasts are children and needs to take special care to ensure their safety.
Ben & Jerry's is one of the best examples of a B2C brand community. What do you think of when you think Ben & Jerry's? Most people think of weird ice cream flavors and social justice.
The intriguing thing about Ben & Jerry's is that they have a history of a strong offline brand community. Because they have long been involved in giving back to the community, they have always tried to bring people together. With the rise of social media, they simply transferred that experience to the internet. Most companies don't have the history to do that, but it's worth looking at how Ben & Jerry's leverages their stances for both good business and good community.
Again, you can see that there is a strong divide between building a community through web presence and building one through social media. The two serve distinct purposes depending on the types of people in their community, the amount of content they have, and the amount of control they need over their brand community.
Regardless of what kind of community you build, the main point is that human connection is important. Chatbots can't build a brand community (although they can certainly help in other contexts).
A brand community requires people to feel that you are responsive and available when they need you as well as strengthening their peer connections. Regardless of your target audience, you need them to feel that there is a person on the other end of the "line." This can help develop your brand personality. People come to know what to expect from communication with your brand.
The key to this, of course, is good engagement from your side. But what does that look like? A lot of the time companies measure it in hard metrics such as comment or like quotas. Ultimately, good engagement looks like this:
Conversations are key. Good engagement is not just posting something to your brand account and leaving it be. It’s also not setting up a peer community and then expecting them to do all the work without anyone from your company getting involved.
Use monitoring tools as needed to make sure you don't miss any posts and can respond when necessary, acknowledge as needed, and do damage control when something goes wrong.
As previously mentioned, good engagement goes both ways. A key part of it is social listening. You need to pay attention to what your customers are saying.
It all matters. Sometimes it might be something that you don't need to respond to, but you can internalize these opinions being shared. Sometimes it might be a complaint that needs to be addressed quickly and professionally.
Brand monitoring tools are part of how you do this. Sometimes you need to step back and just let your customers talk, improving your understanding of what they think about you and what they need from you. While all questions deserve a response, sometimes involving yourself in a conversation will skew it and result in you not learning something important.
It's often thought that B2B is professional, B2C is enthusiasts. Don't fall into the common trap of forgetting that you are still selling to human beings. The people who need your product for their own business still want stellar customer service from a brand with aligning values.
You need the same levels of engagement from your side. There is little difference between Webflow's customers trading code snippets and LEGO's trading ideas for how to put bricks together..
Never forget that your B2B customers are people and want that sense of community and emotional connection with your brand.
Another very common mistake that people make when building a brand community is over-selling. It's easy to think that because you are there to sell something and these are already your customers, that the best thing to do is keep pushing new products.
Instead, you should be thinking about the problems they might have and listening to the problems they currently have. Make sure your interactions with customers and prospects are focused on solving problems, not selling the solution.
In the long run, you can actually make more money after "losing a sale" by presenting a different and better solution than your product to your customer. They will trust you more, come back to you, and tell their friends. Customers who complain actually tend to be more loyal and are more likely to give you those valuable referrals. A study by TARP showed that customers who had a complaint resolved were 30% more likely to be loyal than those who never complained.
Looking at what other people have done is a particularly good way to work out your own tactics. In addition to the examples above, there are a number of brands we feel have particularly strong communities. They include:
So, how do you start the process of building a brand community? First, you find your target audience.
Your brand community is already out there, you just have to find them and bring them together. You need to meet your fans where they already are, whether you intend to build a community on social media or host it on your site.
Here's a quick overview of a good community building process:
Building a brand community makes a huge difference for your business. Your customers will do a lot of your selling for you once it’s in place, but it's vital to remain engaged with your most loyal customers. They need to see you as a person, not a faceless corporation.
Do this, and your brand community will help grow your business over time as well as provide vital support to your customers. And don't be afraid to consult with a marketing firm to figure out your best course of action.
At Steel Croissant, we work closely with our clients to determine who your audience is, where they spend their online time, and how to bring them together to create your own, unique brand community. Contact us today to learn more!
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