Sharing is Caring: Tips for Building a Tight-Knit Brand Community
More than three quarters of consumers (76%) say they would buy from a brand they feel connected to over a competitor. Creating a sense of connection and community around your brand allows you to attract and retain engaged and loyal customers. This is where the term "branded community" enters the picture.
First, let’s define branded communities. Albert Muniz and Thomas O’Guinn define it as a non-geographically-bound community based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand.
Brands can build their own branded community groups. These are semi-controlled spaces for consumers, whether new or loyal to the brand, to engage directly with the brand and with other consumers. Communities can live on social platforms, online forum spaces, brand websites, and beyond.
Brand communities give organizations a way to interact with consumers and provide instant customer service. These communities enhance brand recognition and customer loyalty. While there’s no universal standard for creating successful brand communities, there are best practices to keep in mind before you launch one.
1. Know Your Audience
Who is your community? It's important to identify exactly who you will be communicating to and what need you are fulfilling for that audience before launching a branded community effort. Understanding your target impacts how you develop your overall strategy, the platform you choose to launch your community and the voice in which you articulate your message.
For example, we recently created a closed Facebook group for the Shape Your Future brand. In this group, members discuss their journey to a healthy lifestyle and the challenges they face throughout the week. Along with members, the brand shares its own advice for maintaining a healthy lifestyle that’s easily applicable and accessible. Responses to comments and questions give the brand a sense of approachability and a personal connection to followers.
2. Be Empathetic
Branded communities are created to increase brand awareness and support a brand's overall objectives. Knowing that the goal is to lead your audience down the funnel to convert, it’s equally important to maintain an audience-first attitude. Creating a welcoming environment that fosters genuine conversations between members and provides useful information is key to a successful and long-lasting community group. Coming across as "salesy" or robotic is a quick way to deter consumers from following your group.
For Shape Your Future’s closed Facebook group, content is created to encourage organic conversations. The purpose of initiating conversations is to help members share their own tips and tricks for living a healthy lifestyle. By reading others’ stories, members gain new insights they can apply in their own lives. In one study, 83 percent of consumers reported that purchase decisions were directly influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations. In these groups, users are sharing recommendations and tips with one another, building trust and accountability to make healthy choices offline.
3. Focus on Content
Strong content is what motivates individuals to follow your brand and stay engaged. Ideas for developing solid content can spark from various places – trending search data, customer FAQs or other consumer feedback forums, social media comments and more. For your brand, researching trending content in your space, whether it be other social groups, podcasts, books, or speakers, can spark inspiration for ideation and content creation. If you stay on strategy, it's a good idea to trial-and-error content to see what sparks the engagement you seek.
Any brand can benefit from a branded community, but it requires planning and time management. Your platform needs to be consistently monitored for engagement. Responsiveness is key. If you commit to launching a branded community group, provide your consumer with a great brand experience, build loyalty to your brand, and you'll learn so much about your audience members. Good luck!
Read more about developing guidelines for managing your branded community on social media in this blog.