How to Build an Online and Offline Brand Community for Your Business
A surefire way to build your brand’s presence and encourage brand loyalty is to foster a brand community. It’s one of the best business strategies to help you promote your brand to your target audience.
What Is a Brand Community?
Not really sure what a brand community is or where you should start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. A brand community is simply a group of individuals who share a mutual interest in your brand, your products and services, and the ideals and values that your brand stands for.
If somebody is a part of your brand community, they are all in. As they are emotionally invested in your brand, they will diligently involve themselves with your content, buy your products and services, and spread the word about your brand to their close contacts. Therefore, a brand community can indicate high levels of brand loyalty and can be leveraged as a promotional tool.
For a brand community to really take off though, it is important to ensure that it occurs both online and offline. This holistic strategy ensures consistent connection with your community members and provides them with value.
Similarly, at the end of the day, a brand needs to serve its community. Members should have some need answered by being a part of your brand’s community, like companionship and human connection. In the simplest terms, this means creating multiple spaces where everyone has a chance to participate and get involved. These spaces may be offline or online, but there should be a variety to meet all members’ needs.
What Does Your Business Gain From a Thriving Community?
Having a community of consumers whom you can reach out to regularly is a great way to understand how to make your products and services more customer focused. You have your ideal audience at your fingertips and should be gathering as much data as you can to improve your products and services so as to continue to grow your brand and reach more people.
For instance, you can offer samples in order to test out products and gain valuable feedback. You can also share regular blog content with your brand community in order to keep them in the loop about future releases and offer updates about current projects.
Interacting with your community in these ways can help your brand stay authentic, which is increasingly becoming an important attribute for consumers. You can also tailor your marketing strategies as a result to function more effectively. However, when interacting with your community, you need to treat them as part of the team and engage in meaningful dialogues, including taking feedback onboard and approaching criticisms with compassion and a learning mindset. There are actually psychological concepts at play here, including the Ben Franklin effect, whereby through the action of doing you a favour, your customers are more likely to like your brand. You can then receive more meaningful value from this relationship.
At the end of the day, a brand needs to serve its community.
What Do You Need for a Successful Brand Community?
There are a few points to remember in order to ensure that your brand community is successful. These include:
Define Your Brand
Before you do anything, it is important that you are crystal clear about your brand, including your mission and your vision. You must know exactly who you are reaching out to and what you intend to say. Once you have a clear picture of what you want your brand to be known for, you’ve already done a major chunk of the work. This is because customers love to identify themselves with brands that have a clear message and image. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out our branding workshop breakdown for more detailed advice.
Remember It’s a Business Strategy, Not a Marketing Strategy
You need to treat your brand community as a business strategy rather than purely a marketing strategy. In order to foster community growth, it is important to make wide-scale changes across your business that will assist you to create as authentic a community as possible. Your community has a hold over your brand so ensuring that you incorporate community-building activities that focus on the company as a whole will help your business succeed.
Exist to Serve Your Community Rather Than Your Business
Your people are the ones who make your brand what it is. Keep in mind that your community is made of real people whose loyalty is built through meeting their needs effectively, rather than focusing on purely selling. Satisfied customers lead to a thriving brand image. This is why you need to focus on creating connections with your community and offering them assistance where possible.
Everyone Needs a Chance to Shine
Rather than relying on the opinions of leaders, offer a platform where everyone in the community has the ability to participate. Communities that allow free interaction and more active engagement among all members have higher success rates than those that don’t. When everyone plays a role, it facilitates the sharing of information which can be helpful for making important decisions. Ensure to offer a wide variety of roles for people to take on within the community, so that the system will be fluid, allowing people to slip between roles as they grow and their needs from the community change.
Multiple Spaces for the Win
You will almost definitely have a following on social media but, as mentioned earlier, a brand community needs to be more than just an online network. This is because no matter how convenient the web can be, it still comes with its limitations. The social connections and bonds between individuals can be lacking on an online platform due to the antisocial nature which is fostered by the anonymity of interacting on the web. This is why it is important to have offline platforms as well, so that you can easily reach out to your community and form much more meaningful and sincere bonds and connections with them. How you achieve this is up to you, but it could include meet-ups, in-person events or workshops.
Companies usually try to avoid conflict, but this is something that is unavoidable in business, especially if you have a strong rival for your brand. Brand communities can be quite political in nature and have conflicts with one another or within themselves. Sometimes, rather than trying to smooth over the issue, it is advisable for companies to embrace the conflict. This is because communities tend to get stronger by emphasising the boundaries that define them and their brands. Of course, this should be managed carefully to avoid legal issues.
Flexibility Over Strict Control
Trying to assert dominance and exercise control over brand communities is a lost cause since these communities aren’t corporate assets. Trying to tightly control them would thus be futile and will work against you and your brand’s name. Instead, having a balance of structure and flexibility can help strengthen the community and allow your users to feel as though — and know — their voices are being heard.
Establish Your Brand Community Today!
Building a strong and successful brand community doesn’t have to be a tedious task or a far-fetched dream. It is entirely possible to achieve. You just need to be willing to do what it takes to help your brand community find its footing. Make sure to properly understand your brand and what it stands for, and identify multiple spaces for your customers to effectively communicate in, engage with each other and share their voices. Always remember to keep your consumers’ needs above all and you’ll have a strong brand community up and running in no time.