How To Build A Community For Your Brand

Closeup Of Diverse People Holding Hands

Even when you throw a lot of money into advertising, it’s not guaranteed to bring you success. It takes time and trial and error to nail the exact advertising method through platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

There is another option, one that’s far more organic, genuine, and works not just to boost your brand, but to provide really great engagement and support for your customers: Brand Community.

A big problem with advertising is people are saturated with it all the time. They are starting to tune out and switch off. No one likes being sold to. You might not even be selling directly but it’s going to be difficult to flag anyone’s attention with something that looks, even remotely, like an ad.

The success of building communities around a brand is nothing new, but thanks to social media and the ability for users to interact and share information instantly, it’s highlighted the need to meet this growing consumer value. Luckily those same platforms that are inspiring change are also readily available to business owners to jump in and start building brand communities for little or no outlay.

What makes a good brand community?

I’ve talked a lot in my previous blogs about leadership and how sharing your vision and goals with your team gets their buy-in. Brand communities are no different. When your customers feel they are a part of what you are building, it creates a sense of ownership and loyalty. They are building your business with you, so it matters to them what your business outcomes are. Creating a good brand community that shows in your business success, is your aim.

The brand communities that are successful are the ones that open up communication channels to create two-way engagement, both between the brand and the audience, as well as between individual users. Another important aspect is the group purpose, the community should look to be encouraging, helpful and positive.

When a company is faceless and lacking personality it’s hard to trust what you are buying. Good brand communities give a company a human face and remove the walls between ‘us’ and ‘them’ so there is something real and tangible to connect with.

This interaction provides incredible value. Those who engage instantly get something in return, either through acknowledgement of a job well done or through support and feedback, this is what customers are craving.

Getting your brand community right has multiple benefits including:

  • Increasing your customer reach
  • Getting word-of-mouth sales
  • Boosting your product innovation
  • Adding value to your offer
  • Creating trust and familiarity before a purchase
  • Volunteered testimonials and positive social proof
  • Customer loyalty
  • Brand awareness outside of your products and service offering

Your buyers are not just looking for a service or product anymore, they are hunting for a quality experience and will queue up to get it, even if you don’t have the best product in the market.

The one tip you need to follow to make it successful is to keep sales completely out of the picture – this is not marketing. Blending the two will have your community scattered and lost. Make sure you create a community that is focused on your customers and nothing else.

What is a brand community example?

Let’s look at a real-life example of a highly successful and rewarding community that brings all these elements together: Open communication, buy-in and humanisation.

Starbucks used this perfectly through their My Starbucks Idea. Basically, it was just an online customer suggestion box, but as a community, it did so much more than that.

The online platform had over 150,000 members who could all see what other people are posting and chime in. What made this community work is that Starbucks listened. They were dedicated to implementing ideas, innovating their selection and improving their services.

Since the community started there were 300 innovations born from this community directly, including pumpkin spice lattes and free Wi-Fi, proving that an active, engaged brand community can drive innovation and increase revenues as well as customer loyalty.

What you come up with for your brand community will be based on who your customers are and what you can do to provide engagement and interaction with them. For us, it’s a Facebook community where business owners can come together and discuss their ideas and the challenges they are facing.

This is important because being a self-starter can be an isolating and overwhelming experience. Our group gives business owners a bigger community to reach out to. We also jump in with our expert support as well, giving users real benefits and helping them reach the next level in their success.

How do you build and maintain a brand community?

Any consumer-based business can benefit from an engaged brand community, although very few businesses take the time to make it happen. It’s hard to see why when costs are low and benefits are so high.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is the time and long-term commitment it takes to grow a brand community and maintain it.

It’s important to remember, you don’t have to do it all yourself, you can hire the right team to look after your brand community for you. It is essential that it is maintained and the support is online, if customers don’t feel you are listening, there isn’t going to be a long-term following.

How to build a community for your brand

There are a number of steps to cover to build a strong community around your brand and help you adapt to the ever-changing market.

Make sure you are consistent and continue to provide support for long-term results.

Let It Mature

This isn’t a project that will give you results overnight. You’ll need to put in the long-term effort and allow it to grow naturally. This way you will see friendships, trust and resources form. Trust and sales have an important relationship, so you need to allow this to evolve.

As it grows you can use your community to entice customers in and show the value and flexibility your brand has through having a community available.

Involve Your Team

If you can’t find effective leadership strategies internally, you’re not going to be able to successfully reach a bigger audience. Start with building your team community, creating internal harmony and collaboration within your business. Make sure your whole team has a chance to see your vision and goals and put in their options (that you listen to) about how you can reach your goals in the best way possible.

As well as great communication, this also comes down to having solid systems in place.

Give Your Brand A Human Face

Pictures and videos are great for social proof as well as tangible interactions and human-to-human stories. Encourage your customers to share their brand experiences visually through your platform. While this will work especially well for product-based services, it can be useful for services too, you just might need to get a little creative with how it will fit your brand, like a behind-the-scenes look or a team member’s Instagram story.

Be Generous

While every successful brand community is unique, they all have one thing in common – they give back and add incredible value to their members.

Look to provide information that adds value to the people who use it and gives them something that is beneficial – remember this is not a sales or marketing platform.

While it does need to be relevant to your industry and offering, you do have room to get creative. Listen out for what your customers are asking for and see how you can fill a gap to support their needs.

Free value is important – perks and promos don’t hurt either, as long as they steer clear of sales – it actually needs to be a giveaway and fully transparent.

Post High-Quality Content

As well as letting your members decide the content and direction of your community, it pays to offer quality advice, support and content yourself.

Emails, posts and blogs can all go a long way in offering to help and support your community and answer their needs, as well as establishing yourself as an authority in your field.

It might feel like a risk, to open your business up in a way that is so transparent and vulnerable to abuse, but it’s important to consider what you will receive for your bravery. Your members will see your transparency as a positive, it means you have nothing to hide and there is no hidden agenda. That gives them incredible confidence in your brand and what you have to offer.

When you actively work (in-house and externally) to promote harmony and a positive, enriching community environment you’ll see that come through in your public interactions more often than not.

If you want to see an inspiring community in action, jump into my Facebook group The Business Evolution. See you on the inside!