Ten years ago, the idea of brands having a Community Director was a foreign one. Not many companies saw the advantage of the investment or they didn’t have it on their radar. Everything changed in 2020 when the shift of living online became a clear reality. Not only were people craving community, but they also wanted their favorite brands involved.
Why should you consider building a community? We’ll go over some of the key points but we can distill it to one main idea. Communities create a vibrant space for members to learn from each other and grow.
When a brand immerses in a community, they begin to build a stronger brand. They increase loyalty and tap into their audience for unrivaled benefits.
What Exactly is a Community for a Brand?
The nature of a community depends on you. Are you starting one or are you diving into an existing community within your target market? Either way, communities are built to add value to each other.
You are not marketing your brand. You are having an engaging conversation with an audience about industry needs and ideas. You are finding ways to help them.
This can take many shapes and forms. It could involve a Slack community, Facebook group, Twitter Spaces or Zoom calls, and more.
Social Community Manager for HubSpot, Krystal Wu, states it perfectly in the title of her article, “Creating a Community is like Growing a Garden”. You plant a seed. You nurture it. And you let plants thrive. This creates a strong ecosystem for your brand and the community around you.
It Provides Value to Your Customers and Audience
Communities meet the needs of your market beyond the product. For example, if you sell a tool for plumbers, your community would discuss things like running a service business and finding the best supplier deals. It functions much like a social network or group of like-minded individuals.
When you provide value to your customers and audiences in your market, you build trust with them. As you give, they will also think about you when they need the product you provide.
Communities, specifically online, are powerful hubs filled with opportunities to make an impact. In turn, you increase your reach and build authority.
It Creates an Ecosystem for Superfans
Every brand has customers that are passionate about the product and vision. They tend to purchase the most. They become early adopters with new features and products. They strengthen the market position of the company. While we offer them value, a brand community strives to go beyond and unite these fans for a fulfilling experience.
These superfans are your most valuable asset to the brand. When there is something that doesn’t meet expectations with your product, they are the first to tell you. They are also quick to give you ideas and other forms of invaluable feedback.
Superfans become your ambassadors for the brand. There's nothing like a passionate group of people who talk about what you do all over the internet. When you have a new idea, you can use them as your test group to get raw feedback. But this can only happen if you invest in them first.
A community helps nurture these superfans. You’re not focused on your offers, rather you’re focused on their overall needs and their desire to connect with like-minded people.
By giving them the space to interact with each other, you create a strong community environment that supports the vision of your brand. To facilitate a community of superfans, you must consistently put people first before your company's needs.
You Build a Culture to Serve
The best way to identify if a company is playing the short game or the long game is by studying their customer service.
When something goes wrong for a customer, how do they treat them? Does the customer walk away frustrated or satisfied? Do they feel like they had to be defensive or did they feel supported? This speaks volumes of the culture and vision of the business.
Likewise, creating a community is the most effective way to develop a culture that values all people at every level of the organization and buyer’s journey. It serves the employees, partners, customers, leads, and fans that exist in the market. Everyone has one common goal depending on the interest (likely focused on improving their lives).
When your company benefits from a positive culture because of implementing community, everything else is affected.
Let’s think back to that customer service experience.
Assuming they have been trained with excellence, everything relies on the attitude and behavior of the agent. If they feel happy, fulfilled, and empowered by you, they will treat the customer well. This increases the value of your brand. This applies to other areas of your organization.
Why did that agent feel happy? It likely had to do with the culture. She felt fulfilled and saw what she did as important. Strong communities help people believe in something bigger than themselves. When that’s the case, employees are willing to serve others and represent the brand with care.
Communities Empower the People & Your Brand
When you create a community, you are at the forefront of a movement. You develop the culture and environment filled with vibrant people passionate about the subject.
This becomes super powerful for everyone involved. When people feel empowered, everything begins to grow. They promote the community and invite others to join along. They recognize your brand and spread the word.
Most of all, as you empower others, you begin to develop a positive influence on the people in your circles. This expands your reach and you become a strong, contributing leader in the community.
People want to feel supported and empowered. This can only happen when you add value to them and equip them to grow. A community puts this together and peers join on the same mission.
You Gain Rare Feedback
If you run surveys for your company, you know they can’t always be reliable. People might not answer honestly or they are biased for or against you. You pick up on the obvious problems but not the subtle things— the true markers that can differentiate you from competitors are lost.
A community is heavily invested in the lifestyle you help fulfill. They aren’t shy and they’ll quickly point out the gaps in your product or industry. If you have a listening ear and you are involved in the conversation, you get prime information that’s very difficult to get.
In Zero to Sold: How to Start, Run, and Sell a Bootstrapped Business, Arvid Kahl describes how they identified a big need in the education community because they listened to them. They knew exactly what their pain points were and they were able to solve them. His theory on choosing "audience first" is focused on the community and knowing the ins and outs to fully serve them.
By creating and immersing yourself in a community, you put your thumb on the pulse of what your target audience is truly thinking.
Your Company Increases Its Credibility
Think about traditional communities. The mayor of a small town; the pastor of a church; a civil rights organizer; these people hold influence that can change history forever. There is strength in leading a community. With an honest vision for helping others, you can lead a community and help shape your industry for the better.
By shaping a strong community, you also increase your authority in the market. You meet the needs of partners, peers, customers, and related parties. You naturally position yourself as an important figure in the market.
When you increase credibility, you are in a better position to lead the market with new ideas, innovation, and effective influence.
You also attract top talent because of your efforts and brand image within the industry. Many companies have used community to identify future workers as well. It has created a powerful pipeline of highly competitive job candidates that can elevate a business to a whole new level.
How You Can Start a Community Today
Before starting, begin to canvas what’s already out there. See what communities exist that relate to your industry. Immerse yourself in them and become a valuable member.
When you see a specific need, it may be time to start a new community focused on that particular issue. Or perhaps you want to put a different spin or culture on the community, either way, create a community based on a real need.
Think of the infrastructure. Where will you meet for people to interact with each other? Where will people meet for a webinar or event? Where will they get updates? These are things that will form the backbone of how your community operates.
Great tools are…
- Slack for chat communication and collaboration
- Notion.so for a dashboard and central HQ for information
- Zoom for events and group chats
- Twitter, Facebook, or a relevant social media platform where most people find each other and hangout
- An email list to communicate updates effectively
If you are interested in lifting your brand to the next level, consider creating a community. If you don’t have the resources yet to do it, then invest in one that already exists.