How to build your brand community in 6 steps
As we already found out in the previous article, building a strong and loyal community has various benefits for a brand and can simplify various processes within different business departments such as marketing, sales and customer support. So every business should practically aspire to provide maximum value to their fans and audiences and engage them on a deep, emotional level. This kind of connection is the key to success with any audience, whether from a small, mid or big business.
Now it is time to talk about how to build, develop and nurture the groups of like-minded people for a successful brand community.
Step 1: Define your brand position
What is special about your brand? What does it stand for that differentiates it enough from others? Who are your audiences and what are you offering them that has the potential to engage them and to capture their attention? Before you dive into building a community around your brand, you need to know what the brand is, what it stands for, and who should be a member of it (and also who shouldn’t).
According to Hadari Oshri, founder and CEO of the fashion tech company Xehar, it is important that the brand share the same values with the audiences. Therefore, the goal of the community can focus on a common cause or value – it does not have to be directly tied to the brand products. Hadari Oshri's company produces, for example, fashion for women of all sizes and life situations and its mission is to give women confidence and support positive body image. So the community message will focus exactly on this; fashion products are at this point secondary.
Make sure to follow your mission, so the right people will be drawn towards your potential community.
Step 2: Have the guidelines set up
You now have a clear idea of your brands “USP” and you know what kind of community you want to create. Now it’s important to define your brand's communication code. How will you address the community in a way where additional value will be generated for its members? This also depends on your brand's corporate identity.
An excellent example is Harley Davidson. With Harley Owners Group the motorcycle brand offers its community a platform based around shared lifestyle, interests and taste. It is hard to imagine that the language within the interaction will be formal – at the end of the day Harley Davidson “…fulfills dreams of personal freedom”, which also incorporates freedom of speech.
However, it is also important to establish community guidelines and to use moderators. Not only does this promote uniform and constructive communication within the brand community, but it also serves as a basis for transparent, supportive and respectful communication. Do not forget to communicate the data protection regulations and ensure you have a comprehensive disclaimer in order to protect your brand legally.
Step 3: Find the right platforms to communicate with your community
So you know who you want to communicate to and how you want to do it. The next step is to find the right platform for the customers to communicate among each other, which will also enable the brand to communicate with the customers – preferably in a dialogue.
Firstly, where are your target groups? Are they on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or do they prefer to engage on blogs and in community forums? When you are just starting out, think in easy and simple terms. When thinking of the appropriate platforms, do your research and ask yourself the following questions:
How big is your audience?
What are their favorite means of communication?
What are the tools and skills you will need in order to create and maintain the platform(s)?
What is the budget you are willing to invest in it?
Answer those questions and use the results for the building of your online brand community.
Step 4: Create engagement through viral content
Brand communities are all about people who have the same passions and interests and want to share their knowledge and experience with like-minded people. A great way to encourage your community to share this knowledge is offering sharable content. This should either focus directly on the brand and the products or reflect the values and the mission of the brand and the community. According to a study from 2016, which was published by Harvard Business Review, the components of content which give the potential to go viral are surprise, emotional complexity and extraordinary positivity. Don’t be afraid to take risks by incorporating these elements, if it means creating a better story.
Superdrug, a well-known retail company for beauty and health products, addressed body image issues by asking 18 international graphic designers to edit a picture of a model and bring it in line with their country’s beauty standard.
After publishing the results, Superdrug generated around 1 million social shares, among which were celebrities such as Sofia Vergara, and it also secured them international media coverage. Do not underestimate the power of valuable and extraordinary content.
Step 5: Make the membership valuable by means of rewards
Why should people want to be a part of your brand community? To inspire your community members and foster their loyalty towards your brand, make sure to create a safe space where members are valued and appreciated. This can be done by means of special incentives, such as special offers, discounts, rewards for very active members and the sending out of trial products. Pay attention to the needs of your community and change the rewards accordingly. By paying attention to this you will quickly understand what works for your community and what doesn’t.
Step 6: Be consistent and patient
Good things take time. Building a loyal brand community does not happen overnight and can take months or years. However, looking at this from a long-term perspective, having an active brand community pays off much more than paid advertisement will.
Brand communities are emerging and becoming one of the most valuable resources in marketing. So make sure to use all the tools and skills required for creating a valuable community experience. Answer questions and listen to your community members – your efforts will return to you in the form of future customers and purchases.