The digital sphere requires new processes of corporate communication, technologies, and, of course, marketing. Today, companies have a range of opportunities to establish innovative, customer-centered marketing strategies. One of the most valuable options are customer communities.
Why should communities be part of the business strategy?
According to Mycustomer.com, 86 percent of 500 Fortune companies actively use brand communities for profound insights into customer needs. Moreover, Oracle’s “Socially Driven Collaboration” report confirms that 96 per cent of companies focus on the customer collaboration within brand communities and derive great value for the marketing department. Therefore, it is vital for brands to realize that their communication to the customers does not have to be top-down by means of a customer service or sales department. A better and more trustworthy way is to build up a brand community. And communities are already here: On Spotify’s forum, over 6 million users talk about music and future features; Playstation offers its fans an online space for discussions and games based on a trophy system, and Nike created a space for like-minded runners who associate themselves with the brand. So it seems to be a powerful approach to give space and manage evolving brand communities as well as using them later on for dialogue marketing means.
Let us take a closer look at brand communities.
What are “brand communities”?
A group of people who admire a brand and its products and services can be defined as a brand community.
The members of a brand community feel closely connected to the values, goals and activities of the brand, whereas the relationship among individual members is rather loose.
Brand communities are self-dynamic, social systems that only work if they are given freedom and/or a platform to express their opinion.
Most of the time brand communities are managed by the community managers, who work in the company.
Brand communities can be found everywhere, but their communication happens mostly online.
Why brand communities?
1. Client loyalty
By creating an open space for fans and lovers of the brand, it seems logical that the brand community will contribute to increased brand loyalty and higher customer retention. People who feel valued and whose opinion matters tend to be more active and committed towards a company or a brand, who give them this feeling.
Edelman’s Brandshare study was conducted among 14,000 consumers in 14 countries in 2017. The results show that only 14 percent of participants believe that they are in an appreciative relationship with a brand, whereas 90 percent of respondents would wish for such a relationship. When people are affine to the brand, they are most likely to share this state of mind with new members and potential clients. They do not only feel valued, but they also get value from the company itself. And this generates loyal and active clients.
2. User-generated content
Speaking of value – brand communities can be super valuable for the marketing and communications work of a company. According to the Nielsen Global Trust in Brand and Messages study from 2013, only 53% of users consider brand websites to be trustworthy sources. In comparison to that, 80% of participants would listen to recommendations from acquaintances or relatives, whereas 63% were buying by considering the ratings and editorial content.
So, imagine there is already an entire community of people who love what your brand is doing and are happy to generate this knowledge online. The trustworthy opinions of relatives and friends, backed by real experience ratings, are substituted by the brand community.
3. High interaction
By having user-generated content and being ranked higher in main search engines gives visibility and attracts other potential brand community members. If you have a question or a problem, the first thing you do nowadays is to ask Google. The first 3-5 links on the first page are vital – this is where you will click to get your answer. So when your brand’s enthusiasts share their knowledge and experience about a product, it can help others to know what they want to know, and it gives your brand a particular expert image which goes along with higher ranking in the search engine.
4. Simplification of work processes
According to Vivaki – Social Minds 2014, 35% of internet users have already read product recommendations and 21% have bought something because of positive reviews. Even if it is not applicable to all products, these values reveal what marketing should actively focus on – driving sales.
According to the same study, 49% of people would buy a product because of sympathy for a brand, 48% would buy because of discounts and promotions, and 46% of clients would buy due to good quality of the product. These 3 reasons can all be achieved in the online process of connection between the brand and consumers.
Just think of all the great opportunities your company could get through a loyal and active brand community. It is basically free PR work coming from people who love and believe in your brand. And these people are most likely the ones who will be ready to try out new products or participate in some marketing initiatives or events. Having a user-driven forum also helps to answer many questions and solve problems others may encounter. It can help your brand to gather important feedback to improve the offer and get new ideas for new products.
Also, customers answer the questions of other customers – so a customer service team in this case only handles the real deal questions or problems. All this of course helps tremendously to drive sales.
So a powerful brand community can fuel the success of your business in many ways, if executed properly. The main thing remains having the users and customers in the focus of everything the brand does. Listen to the need of the market, and the answers to all your questions will magically appear.