A brand is only as strong as the customers behind it. Companies like Apple or Nike have achieved their success largely because they were able to get millions of people to believe in their core ideas and make the brand a part of who they are.
But building this type of connection isn’t easy. And it can’t be done by treating your audience as just customers who should be bombarded with marketing messages. Instead, you must seek to create a community around your brand, where people will actively engage with your brand, communicate with each other, and even create user content centered around your products and brand.
Once you have that, the number of people you can reach and connect with will start increasing without you having to do anything; your brand will become a part of who your customers are, attracting more people like them to join the community.
Since community building for brands can be so powerful, let’s look at what it is, why it matters, and how you can build your own strong brand community.
What is a Brand Community?
A brand community is an audience of customers who are not just fans of your products but active members of a community centered around your brand.
It’s much more valuable than brand awareness or even brand loyalty; while both of those are great, they can’t offer the same level of commitment to a brand and being part of the group of people that support it.
That’s because there’s another level on top of the traditional brand-customer relationship based on quality products, excellent service, and good brand-customer alignment. There’s also the community aspect, where people can share their experiences, help each other with challenges, and nurture a sense of camaraderie that will get people to stay with your brand for much longer.
This type of relationship with the brand and other customers nurtures an emotional bond that’s hard to match any other way. It creates a passion and commitment towards using your products and boosts your brand’s reach in a way that’s impossible to replicate, no matter how large your marketing budget might be.
Why Should You Build a Community Around Your Brand?
Building a community around your brand takes effort. So it’s good to understand the full scope of benefits it can offer. We already talked about the general advantages of having a strong community, but they have multiple levels on which your business can benefit.
Let’s look at them below.
Improve Customer Loyalty
43% of customers spend more money with brands they are loyal to. But with the competition in most markets becoming steeper, maintaining customer loyalty and getting them to come back is becoming increasingly difficult.
But when you have a community centered around your brand and products, people will not just be drawn to the actual products but also to sharing experiences with others. And that alone can be an enticing reason to stay with you, even when the competition runs aggressive campaigns to try to get them to switch sides.
Nurtures Brand Ambassadors
No matter how effective your marketing campaigns, there’s a limit to how many people you can reach. But if you have your customers actively promoting your products and recommending them to their peers, you will never run out of new customers who will already be pre-sold on the idea of joining your brand’s community.
As you develop a strong community that shares experiences and helps each other, that will also result in more people taking pride in being part of your brand’s family. They will then actively spread your message, attracting more people like them without you having to do anything.
SEO is a crucial aspect of running a successful online business. And when you build a brand community, you will also have tons of user-generated content that will link back to your site.
Over time, that will produce powerful SEO results, driving unlimited organic traffic to your site month after month. While it may not be the direct result of having a brand community, it does play an important role, and that’s just another reason why having a community pays off over the long term.
Gain Insights Into Your Audience
The more you know about your audience, the better you can adjust your products and brand to meet their expectations. And having a community serves as the ideal way to interact with your audience, observe their behaviors, and gain valuable insights about what they like and don’t like.
You can even run surveys, interviews, and polls with your best customers, discovering why they chose your brand in the first place, how they view your company against the competition, and what they would like to see improved or changed.
Examples of Brand Communities
The only way to really understand how community building can help your company is to see how these types of communities look in action. And that’s why it’s a good idea to go over a few of the largest brands in the world that have created loyal and engaged communities around their products and the experience of using them.
Let’s explore three excellent examples below.
Starbucks has built its entire brand on the idea of community and being part of an exclusive club. And because of this carefully crafted brand image, the company has been able to ingrain the very association of coffee with its brand.
Millions of people around the world can’t imagine their day without grabbing a coffee from Starbucks, and the social media presence the company has cultivated is a big part of it. Starbucks has nurtured a strong social media community, encouraging people to share their coffee pictures and become part of the tribe, running various contests and making it a whole social experience that goes much further than the product itself.
Nike would not dominate the fitness market the way it does if it weren’t for the die-hard community of fans that it has cultivated. The “Just Do It” slogan has become an indispensable part of many people’s lives, motivating them to go out there and exercise.
And obviously, Nike products are a central part of the experience. They allow people to feel like they belong, get them to feel more like the athletes they look up to, and provide top-level training gear for everyday people. And then there’s the community element of like-minded people who like to push themselves to become better, which is at the center of what makes Nike so appealing.
Even if you aren’t part of the GoPro community or a user of their products, you have probably heard of the brand and saw the camera in action through user-generated content, of which there is a ton.
GoPro cameras are durable, ultra-portable, and perfect for those that like to go on adventures, partake in extreme sports, and capture all of that in beautiful detail with the GoPro products. Naturally, those drawn to that lifestyle immediately consider GoPro as the way to capture it, and that keeps the community growing on autopilot.
Community Building: Essential Steps
At this point, you’re probably convinced that community building is definitely worth the effort if you want to nurture a successful online brand. But the next question is – how can you build a community from scratch?
Well, the good news is that there’s a structured process you can follow that will help you build a community of loyal fans that are also your very best customers. Let’s go over a few of the key steps below.
Build a Strong Brand
Building a community is impossible without a strong brand. If there’s nothing to attract people to your business in the first place, you can’t expect them to stick around to interact with others as well.
Therefore, any successful community-building strategy must begin with developing a brand that your ideal customers can relate to. What’s more, the brand you create must not only be aligned with your customers and your products but also have a built-in community element. Only then can you nurture the community through targeted social media campaigns, contests, user-generated content, and other effective strategies.
Find Your Ideal Customer
Having a strong brand is essential, but the brand must also not exist in a vacuum. Your brand is a reflection of the type of customers you attract, so you must also have a deep understanding of who you’re selling and develop a buyer persona that’s an accurate reflection of your business.
If you have customers already, identify the ones who you feel have the best customer lifetime value and who are the happiest with your services. You can then conduct interviews and run surveys to get to know the reasons why they like your company and identify the core values you should embrace and highlight throughout your branding.
Create Value Around Your Community
Joining a community is something that requires effort from your customers. Therefore, you can be sure that they won’t do it if you don’t create an environment where joining a community brings a lot of value.
Some of the things that a community can offer include a sense of camaraderie, a place to get helpful information and answers to questions, as well as the opportunity to be a part of a community with shared ideas and values.
If you want to take things to another level, you could even create a mastermind group that provides premium value and creates a barrier of entry. In the How We Solve podcast, Dev Gordon lays out all the steps to building a successful mastermind community that you can leverage into more sales.
Eventually, these aspects will be driven by community leaders. But as you’re getting started, you need to actively encourage people to participate, communicate, and share their experiences. You must also help create and enforce rules that make everyone feel safe and welcome.
Engage Your Customers
Strong brand communities don’t happen overnight. At first, people won’t be sure how to behave, what they can share, and how the whole community even works.
Therefore, you should take a proactive role in encouraging people to participate and engaging them throughout the entire process. You can do that by motivating people to share their experiences and generate content through contests and targeted campaigns aimed at generating more activity.
Identify the Right Community Platform
For your community to grow and prosper, you must create a space for people to share their experiences and communicate. And that requires a platform that they can easily use, which won’t make it inconvenient to be an active member.
Many brands use social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram since they have a built-in community element and countless convenient tools for driving engagement. But you might also want to use a custom solution that gives you more control over what your customers see and how content is created and distributed.
Community building is one of the best ways to ensure customer satisfaction and that they stick with you beyond the initial purchase. If the community is valuable in itself, the people that buy from you will stay not just for the products but for the community benefits, increasing brand loyalty in the process.
What brand communities are you a part of? And which ones would you replicate in your own business? Share in the comments below!