Meaningful connections between people are essential to our well-being, especially in today’s world. A strong community gives its members a sense of belonging and security, and, most importantly, the opportunity to bond over a shared goal. And since 2020 accelerated the digital transformation significantly, we have been looking to make these connections mainly in the online world. So if you are searching for new ways to bring your customers together and build a great relationship with them, designing an online brand community and including it in your business strategy is something you should definitely look into.
The pandemic made us adapt to the new reality of social isolation and redefined the way we perceive human interactions. According to Forbes, since 2020, the number of virtual events increased by more than 1000%. COVID-19 changed our workplace, school, gym, favorite restaurant, and other places vital for connecting with people forever. So while the rise of the Internet provided new opportunities to interact with users worldwide, it was the pandemic that created soaring demand for strong online communities.
The main reason for this is simple - we lack human connections, so we moved them to the online world. That’s why building a community is important for your brand.
Here is another reason why building community is important - it brings together real people. Loyal community members from whom you can learn, get real-time feedback and insights into their needs, desires, and preferences. It’s a great way to attract potential customers, get brand advocates, and gain a lot of valuable user-generated content.
An efficient community management gives you an opportunity to implement two-way communication which allows you to foster meaningful discussions about your brand, products, and the industry. Thanks to that, you can actively listen to your target audience, and build meaningful relationships with users who might soon become the loyal customers.
Gathering information from your community members also makes it easier for you to create positive brand experiences and improve your products or services. Your marketing and product team can certainly use the valuable data extracted from stories, insights, ideas, and reviews of the customers, and turn it into new features, powerful digital campaigns, and general improvements.
Brand communities give companies a peek into what their audiences really need or/and desire, which can be a massive gain for your business. You just have to listen to your community and hear what your members have to say.
People identify themselves with communities that make them feel valued and seen. So if you provide them with a space where they can discuss topics related to your business and observe the change it brings, they will feel a much stronger connection to your brand.
If you want to improve your brand loyalty and customer retention, you simply cannot miss out on the potential offered by strong communities. Let your potential and existing customers know that their feedback is valuable to you.
A brand community is not an entirely new concept. Many businesses have been successfully harnessing community building for quite a few years. If you are still trying to grasp what this process looks like in practice, here are a few great examples that you can learn from:
We simply have to mention Lego Ideas - a website where people can design and submit their own product proposals. The most popular projects are turned into real sets that are sold commercially, and the author receives a percentage of the sales. The platform allows users to interact over the design ideas - they can explore the proposals, comment on them and vote on their favorites.
Duolingo created a thriving brand community with Duolingo’s Incubator, launched in 2013 - a platform where volunteers from all around the globe can team up and create new language courses. A year ago, Duolingo announced that all participants will be paid for the content they create.
The “My Starbucks Idea” initiative was launched in 2008 to help the company get valuable customer insights and increase customer satisfaction. The platform encouraged users to share their feedback and ideas for improvements or new products. The suggestions were being taken very seriously by Starbucks, which implemented a few hundred ideas submitted by the customers over 10 years (the platform was retired in 2018).
That’s what Adobe did when they purchased the Behance platform in 2012 and turned it into their brand community for creative people. Behance allows its users to publish their visual work, build their portfolios, discover the creative work of other people, and even collaborate with artists from all over the world. Today, Behance has over 10 million members and is one of the most popular online design community platforms on the market.
One point of building a community is to give people a sense of belonging. Make sure that your members are actively interacting and bonding with each other by giving them a common goal - whether it’s sharing experiences, giving feedback, or submitting their own ideas. Engage them in meaningful discussions that can also take place without you, but don’t forget about the two-way communication - react to important comments and criticism.
In other words - create a place that will benefit both the customers and visitors. Such a place should allow them to exchange knowledge and learn from each other.
After some time, your members will probably expect you to reward them for their contribution. But even if they don’t, go the extra mile and make them feel special.
Provide them with valuable knowledge and early access to new products or features. Create a rewards program. Turn them into official brand ambassadors. And most importantly - remember to be constantly responsive to the needs, queries, and doubts. After all, brand communities exist to serve people who want to be a part of your brand.
We always say that an inactive community is every community manager’s worst nightmare. That’s why you can’t rest on your laurels once the platform is built. Always make sure that your users are actively participating and engaging in discussions.
How can you do that? Provide the best community experience possible. There are a few ready-made ideas you can use - check out our article on best community engagement techniques/strategies.
However, remember to stay creative and focus on building the intended atmosphere and culture of your group. Each community is different - the better you know yours, the more ideas for engaging your users you can come up with.
If you want your community to thrive at everything, it might become difficult to manage and grow. It’s better to focus on one clear vision and the reason for the group - do you want people to share ideas? Educate others? Or maybe you would like to include them in product creation?
Start with one goal and try to get your members excited about it. Keep in mind that your idea should always center around the concepts of helping people, fostering meaningful interactions, and creating value.
A thriving community can become a powerful and invaluable element of your business and marketing strategy. Take full advantage of its potential - remember to put the community members first and provide them with a space in which they will feel safe, valued, and connected. And if you got a little overwhelmed and sense that you might use some help with the whole process, take a deep dive into our ultimate guide to building a successful brand community or request a demo and check what Advocu can do for you and your target audience.