As more and more businesses go online and make use of digital channels to market themselves, it is becoming difficult to keep customers focused on your business alone.
People are busy. Time and attention spans are limited. How can your brand cut through the noise?
Today, various brands are actively leveraging community marketing to connect with customers on a deeper level.
Do you know, more than 1.8 billion Facebook users engage with online communities every month?
People love communities because they feel a sense of commonality. Communities help them build genuine and emotional connections with people and brands that share the same values and interests.
Community marketing is a win-win situation for both the brand and its customer, and that’s why we think it needs to be an integral part of your growth strategy.
What is Community Marketing?
Community marketing is a growth strategy that brands leverage to bring their customers together over a common topic of interest in a non-intrusive manner. Community marketing is less about the brand and more about the customers’ needs, desires, and interests.
For example, a dog food brand can create a community around dog health, adoption, or provide a platform to dog owners where they can share their dog’s cutesy moments.
Before we understand why community marketing is essential for a brand, let’s understand the psychology behind a community.
What defines a community?
A community can be defined as an exclusive space where people that share identical values and interests, feel a sense of belongingness to a common topic of interest.
Three pillars of a community are:
- Connection: an innate understanding that all members of a community are connected, and are distinct from the outsiders.
- Practices and habits: members of a community share certain acts and behaviors that solidify culture and the essence of a community.
- Sense of responsibility: members of a community have a moral obligation that compels community members to serve each other
Why is community marketing important?
Now that we understand community and community marketing, let’s deep dive into why it is important for your brand.
1. High impact, low-cost
Building a community consists of low-cost marketing strategies like live streams, giveaways, webinars, engagement, collaborations, and social listening. These strategies are more honest as compared to flooding your customers’ feeds with rudimentary ads.
However, community building takes time and patience.
You need to constantly be at it, and gradually gain their trust by engaging in a way that makes them feel proud to be part of your community.
2. Enhanced customer experience, better ROI
86% of people are willing to pay extra for an item if the customer experience is great.
With great community management, members feel like a part of your brand, they are acknowledged, and their questions are answered quickly. Furthermore, when your community matures, a good chunk of the engagement is user-generated.
For example, old members help new members resolve any basic issues they might be facing.
3. Activates word of mouth marketing
Robust community marketing brings in meaningful exposure. A study by Nielsen revealed that 92% of people prefer to go with suggestions from friends and family, as compared to advertising.
4. Enables social listening
67% of brands utilize their communities to get insights about new launches, features, and services. Communities are like data banks. Once they increase in size, they can help with market research.
5. Retention marketing
Acquiring customers has become costlier than ever. Traditional marketing tactics are not as effective. To decrease the cost of acquiring more customers, retaining your current customers is crucial.
Community marketing is so powerful that it can support sales, marketing, and customer experience teams. Indulging in regular conversations with customers builds brand loyalty, and provides an opportunity to understand customers’ pain points, desires, and how your products/services can add value to them.
Examples of brands using community marketing
Nike, the world’s no. 1 sports brand worth $37B has been leveraging community marketing like a pro. Here’s how:
- Nike is a mastermind at community segmentation. They have proper social media pages for each sub-community, that are based on location, interests, and gender. The brand owns around 20 such sub-communities as of now.
- Every March, Nike hosts a grand event to celebrate its best-selling sneakers, AIR Max. Fans eagerly wait for this event as they get to meet fellow sneakerheads, take part in exclusive contests, workshops, and are amongst the first ones to know about future releases.
- Nike repurposes user-generated-content for social proof. They use dedicated hashtags on their mobile app called SNEAKRS, share exclusive news on the latest launches, and collaborate with fellow sneaker fans.
- Nike is big on customer feedback. In 2018, they announced a design contest that brought participants in droves to workshops in London, Seoul, New York City, and more. Winners got to meet the creative team of Nike at their headquarters. Another initiative by Nike called ‘Nike by you’ lets customers design their version of sneakers. This provides them insights into what customers prefer when it comes to personalization.
Sephora launched their online community called ‘Beauty Talk’ which is a huge forum for users to address their concerns, share ideas, and learn about new products.
They have a beauty board too where customers can upload their pictures after using Sephora products, and link all the products they used. Basically, Sephora’s customers become their brand ambassadors without Sephora lifting a finger.
Furthermore, this becomes a holy grail for the marketing team to explore pain points, figure out what products perform better, and respond to customer queries efficiently. All in one channel.
Lego Ideas, a web platform initiative by Lego in 2014 has been an excellent attempt at community marketing, and to date sets a fine example.
This platform lets users share their innovative ideas for new Lego set launches and showcase their Lego unique creations. All members get to comment and vote too. Lego moderates the community in a more nuanced manner- they foster positive interactions by selecting certain ideas by members for new launches and incentivizing them.
Community marketing works excellently when you factor in exclusivity. For instance, to keep existing subscribers engaged and draw new subscribers during COVID-19,
TechCrunch introduced Extra Crunch Live, an exclusive webinar speaker series only available for subscribers. They moved the majority of the events scheduled in 2020 to a subscription-based model.
Precisely 2 months after the launch, TechCrunch reported a mind-blowing growth of 600% year-on-year increase in the subscriptions.
5. Miyoko’s Creamery
Miyoko’s Creamery is a fully vegan dairy brand that produces various types of cheese and butter that are all plant-based. They have a Facebook group with a quirky name that goes by ‘Taste Mmmakers’ where they encourage customers to “share heart-melting stories, swap creamy recipes, enjoy delicious discounts, and be the first to know about the many exciting updates Miyoko’s has for the future.
This group connects individuals who love cooking with plant-based ingredients or are interested in veganism.
Must-haves for success in community marketing
1. Understanding your customers
Before you promote your community, it is important to create an ideal customer profile, because that has a direct impact on how active your community is. Start with a single niche.
If you are a dog food brand, try to create a community around the most relevant topic. For example, dog health. Invite vetted doctors to take webinars, educate dog owners about various dos and don’ts, and even create a FAQ segment for new dog owners.
2. Identify topics of interest
Pinpointing what your customer desires from your community can be a daunting process. Social listening is a great method to identify what they are talking about on that particular channel that you are making a community on. It also helps you keep track of competitors.
Once you get a solid idea about what your community members want, you can start creating valuable content.
3. Active monitoring
When you build a community, you need to be consistent with monitoring the conversations happening in there, so that it doesn’t get spammed by irrelevant content or gets hijacked by competitors. You also want to make sure that the conversations are active.
If you don’t monitor, you will leave your members in the lurch, which in turn will harm your brand’s reputation. This is where having a social media response strategy comes into play.
4. Objectives and goals
Each month you must set clear goals of what you want to achieve from the community marketing. For example, boost loyalty, improve CLTV, enhance the share of voice, improve customer engagement, or take feedback.
5. Optimize your strategy
\As you make use of social listening and understand how people interact in the community, you can gain insights about what works and what doesn’t. This will help you optimize your strategy for better outcomes.
Conclusion – Do you really need community marketing?
Today, brand communities have become really powerful because they tap into two essential needs of humans, i.e. social and emotional.
If you are not focussing on community marketing, you are leaving money on the table. The best place to start with your brand’s community marketing is to look into what your competitors are doing to keep the audience engaged.
Ready to tune in?