The rise of hyper-targeted ads on social media has allowed even the largest companies on earth to provide a tailored message to each prospective customer. They can mimic the feel of a local mom and pop shop and forge a real connection with the people seeing their ads. In such a world, connecting deeply with customers is the only way to maximize your brand value and inspire loyalty in your customer base.
Building a thriving community with your brand in the center is the first step in a community marketing approach, and if done correctly it will push your revenue into the stratosphere. So, let’s go over what community marketing is, why it works, and how to get started with building a community around your brand.
Whatever your community marketing approach, understanding how your prospective clients respond to your pitch is important. When trying to figure out your market, track your revenue metrics closely.
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What exactly is community marketing?
The fundamental principle of community marketing is making the message about them (the customers) and not you (the business). To do this, community marketing strives to build a community around some topic related to the brand, or a set of values aligned with the brand.
The most common example of the former is sports—a brand makes itself a part of the image of the sport, and often replicates that success in more and more sports communities. A modern example of the latter is a company projecting a green image on its brand—showing how the brand is particularly climate conscious or that the business is using its visibility and success to promote an environmental policy objective.
A cynic might think it is easy to fake these connections (indeed, the term “green washing” is used frequently), but customers are incredibly savvy and no community marketing scheme entered into with a cynical motive will last long—and community marketing very much works best as a long-term strategy.
Community marketing can be broken down into two systems:
- Organic marketing is customer-led. It is the word-of-mouth communication about the company done by members of the community. The authenticity of this mode is hard to match.
- Sponsored community marketing is company-led. It comes from a focus on improving the CSR (corporate social responsibility) of the company, and utilizing that goodwill to ingrain itself into a community of like-minded consumers.
To really understand what community marketing is and how it fuels brand growth, we need to define what a community is and learn a bit about the psychology behind the human need for connection.
The three key components of a community
Communities have three key components:
- There is a group of people who all share some common interest.
- The people care about each other and therefore are happy to come together over their shared interest.
- The people have a sense of belonging within the group because they are there to work towards common goals and share in common interests.
The three markers of a brand community
There are three main markers of a brand community:
- Consciousness of kind: This is the intrinsic feeling shared among members that they are all similar in some way and different from those outside the community.
- Rituals and traditions: These are all the specific actions and behaviors of the community that they partake in.
- Sense of obligation to community: The members of the community feel that they have some moral duty towards each other.
Misconceptions about community marketing
Community marketing has been a victim of its own success. With every brand trying to build a community, and every marketing manager claiming to be an expert on community marketing, many of the so-called community marketing campaigns today aren’t really community marketing at all. This has led to there being many myths out there about community marketing.
1. Bigger is better
Sometimes big crowds can be as lonely as sitting at home. If a community grows too much or too quickly, then in some ways it ceases to be a community at all. Furthermore, with many new voices, your voice might get drowned out, and with it months of hard work building up trust within the community.
2. You can’t create a community
Some of the most successful community marketing campaigns have actually created their community. They have brought people together over some shared interest when either the people who shared the interest had no idea there were so many like-minded others, or they saw no need for a community to share their interest.
If you can find the people individually who share the passion, then you can bring them together and build the community together.
3. One community per interest
Different people have different expectations about community. Even though they have the same interests, they may not wish to fulfill their need for community in the same way. If a community already exists around some niche and there doesn’t seem to be room for your brand, try to unite people around a parallel group.
If you can find a way to engage with the people who do not wish to join the current community, then you can develop a competing one with your brand in its center from the beginning.
Succeed At Community Marketing
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Seven proven community marketing strategies
You’ve identified a compatible community in line with your brand image and one that seems fruitful for a community marketing campaign. That’s great, but don’t just flood this new group with mediocre ads.
To succeed at community marketing in the long term, follow the strategies below.
1. Be informative
The expectations of companies on social media have changed drastically in the last few years. They expect your advertising, replies, posts, etc. to be informative. If someone asks you a question about your service, they expect a complete and timely answer.
2. Be online
A true member of a community is taking part regularly. This goes double if you want to be there as part of a community marketing scheme. Keep up your presence even after you are seeing the loyalty gains or expect to be replaced.
3. Contribute with expertise
If you belong in the community, show it. As a person getting paid to contribute to a community that is mostly made up of people on their free time, your contributions should be of particularly high value and show that you are a pro.
4. Create vocal fans
As mentioned above, the word-of-mouth, organic community marketing works best, so try and get people on board and ready to sing your praises. There is nothing better than logging on to a community for a day of engagement to see others already praising your business and its efforts in the community.
Find new and varied ways to engage. Video, podcasts, and blogs are all geared to different kinds of people. Figure out which effort connects best with your community and engage as much as you can, but don’t overpower the community otherwise it will just be seen as an ad channel and the real members will find somewhere else to meet.
People bring their interests, hobbies, passions, etc. to the community because they want to engage. If you want to be seen as an authentic part of that community, then you need to engage too. No one is going to remember which company sponsored 50 saplings to be planted in a community greening project, but the company that comes with the cash and 20 volunteers to shovel will really impress people.
7. Stay consistent
Community marketing is a long-term strategy. It can take months to gain the respect of a community and be seen as part of it. A couple of months is not long enough to judge the value of your effort.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of community marketing?
Community marketing isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for every company. Let’s look at some specific advantages and disadvantages of community marketing.
-> The advantages of community marketing
The following are among the major advantages of community marketing:
Better customer experience
Brand and customer humanization
More relevance and loyalty
Word of mouth growth
-> The disadvantages of community marketing
The following are among the major disadvantages of community marketing:
Unique skill set required
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