Build a strong brand and you will get yourself a strong community of loyal customers and brand advocates. Or, is it the other way around?
Some might argue that a strong community is what makes a brand stronger and loyal customers are the best way to promote a brand.
Maybe it is an ongoing process and an infinite loop. Having a clear brand image will help you build a strong brand community and your community members will help further strengthen your brand.
But what is a brand community and why do you need one? Also, how can you create a strong brand community and use it to your advantage?
This blog covers all these and more! Keep reading to find out the answers.
What is a Brand Community?
A brand community brings together all the loyal customers of a brand. Brand communities provide a platform for these customers to interact with each other and the brand.
Brand communities could be anything from a Facebook group to an online forum on the brand’s website. An engaging rewards or loyalty program with a place for customers to interact with each other could also be considered as a brand community.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be an online community, as many brands have successfully created an offline brand community as well. Harley Davidson, for example, created a strong offline community of people who loved riding their Harley bikes.
It is probably one of the best examples of a brand community and what it can do for you. But more on that in the next section.
Why Should You Build a Brand Community?
Brand communities provide a unique opportunity for brands to engage with their most loyal customers. This not only helps you with customer retention but also helps you create brand advocates.
Well, a brand community is formed by customers who are emotionally connected with your brand. They use your products, follow you on social media, engage with your branded content, and tell their friends about your brand.
Who better to promote your brand than your most loyal customers?
If you create a brand community and connect with these customers, the next step could be to incentivize people to promote your brand. This could be something as simple as reposting their social media posts where they tagged your brand. Or it could be a full-fledged loyalty program where they get rewards for completing different actions.
Want to know the best part?
For most good brands, a community already exists somewhere, you just need to find it and connect with your most loyal customers. Social media is usually the best place to start. All you need to do is provide a platform for them to connect.
So, how can you create a successful brand community?
Find out in the next section.
How to Build a Brand Community
Not every brand can build a community as strong as what Harley Davidson did, but you should still do the best that you can. With the right tactics and some time and effort, you can create a strong and successful online community for your brand.
In this section, you will learn the step-by-step process of how to create a brand community. Follow this process to create a successful community of loyal customers for your brand.
Ready to get started?
Here we go.
1. Define Your Brand and What it Stands for
People will only connect with your brand when you have a distinct brand identity and values that they can relate to. It is not about the products you sell, but about what your brand stands for and represents.
Need an example?
Dove is a beauty brand that has a very distinct and clear brand identity: it stands for breaking traditional beauty standards and empowering all women to feel beautiful. All of the brand’s content solidifies this value, further strengthening the brand image.
Here’s an example of a recent Instagram post by the brand that shows exactly what the brand stands for.
Image via Instagram
Now, if you are someone who relates with this, you may feel a connection with the brand and would subconsciously prefer its products over others. Given two brands with the exact same product, people tend to buy from the one they feel connected to.
This is why you need to create a unique, strong, and distinct brand image and reinforce this image with all your branded content. Define your brand values, identify causes you relate to, have a clear brand voice, and choose your brand colors, logo, and other brand elements.
Having a distinct brand identity is the first step you need to take to create a brand community. Take help from a PR agency to create and manage your online reputation, if you don’t have the required resources in-house.
2. Choose a Platform
Next, you need to choose the platform where you want to create a brand community. In this section, you will find some of the most popular options where you can create a brand community.
This is probably the easiest way to create a brand community. You simply need to create a group and invite your followers to join it.
Many social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook provide the option to form groups where you can create a brand community. However, on platforms like Instagram where there are no groups, you can still create a brand community using branded hashtags.
Wondering how that works?
Let’s understand with the help of an example.
American Express is a brand that uses its branded hashtags on Instagram to manage its branded online communities. Here’s an example:
Image via Instagram
The next option is to create an online forum on your website, where all your loyal customers can interact with each other and your brand. This is a great way to create a brand community that is strong and engaged.
But, if you opt for this, then you need moderators to manage your community and make sure that it remains active. Moderators will need to create forum rules, introduce new topics for discussion, and remain active on the forum on a daily basis.
Sephora has a brand community called the Beauty Insider. It is an online forum where members discuss various beauty-related topics. The community is so big that it even has smaller groups within it for people who are interested in specific topics.
Image via Sephora
You can also create a brand community on your website by starting a loyalty or rewards program for your loyal customers. Such affiliate programs are designed to engage your customers and encourage them to take certain actions to win rewards.
These actions include engaging with the brand on social media, making purchases, or bringing in new customers, for example. You can use gamification to make things more interesting and create milestones or levels that customers can cross to win higher-level rewards.
The more engaging your program is, the stronger your community will be. You could also show each member other members’ scores to create a sense of community and competition.
You can even offer some special rewards that are exclusive to members, making it a coveted loyalty program.
Diner’s Club, for example, is a brand that is built entirely around the concept of a membership program and online community. It provides exclusive rewards to its members and its membership does not come cheap, making it even more attractive.
3. Make it Useful for the Members
No matter what type of brand community you create, make sure that it is useful and relevant to your customers. No one, no matter how much they like your brand, will waste their time on something that they find either irrelevant or useless.
So, when you create a brand community, design it in a way that will be attractive to your customers. For that, you need to have a good understanding of who your customers are and what they like.
Do some research, use social media analytics and web analytics data to identify and understand your existing customers. Find out their likes and preferences to create a brand community that they would actually want to join.
You can also use social media listening to gather valuable insights and understand your customers better.
If your customers are tech-savvy, why not create a community where they can explore new tech products, read/write reviews, and even get tutorials. Similarly, if your customers are interested in music, create a brand community where they can create and share playlists as Spotify did.
You get the gist, right?
The golden rule to create a brand community is to make it relevant to your existing and prospective customers.
4. Actively Drive Engagement
Once you create a brand community, you need to remain active and moderate the community to make sure that it stays relevant. Maintaining your brand community and engaging its members is an ongoing process.
First, you need designated moderators who are responsible for managing your brand community. Once you have assigned moderators, the next step is to drive engagement in your online community.
What should you do to drive engagement in your brand community?
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Start new discussions and threads on relevant topics.
- Respond to comments and engage in conversations.
- Conduct polls, quizzes, or contests to keep members engaged.
- Use gamification to make your brand community fun and engaging.
- Answer questions, steer discussions in the right direction, be an active member of the community yourself.
Also, make sure that you set clear rules and guidelines for your brand community that every member should follow. You also need to weed out any members who do not follow the community rules. Create an online form to get suggestions about your community so you can make necessary changes if required.
Basically, you need to be the most active member of your brand community and keep it buzzing with discussions and other interactive activities.
5. Promote Your Community
It is not enough to create a brand community and expect people to find it themselves. You also need to promote your community and make sure that your target audience is aware of it.
Promoting your brand community is just like any other brand awareness campaign: you need to let the right people know about your community and why they should join it.
List the benefits that members of your community will get and how it will be useful for them. Provide information on exactly what the community is about and what members can expect if they join it.
You can also get a brand mention from popular influencers in your niche and ask them to promote your community. This will help spread the word and get more relevant people to follow your brand and become a part of your community.
Hopefully you found this post useful and will use it to create a brand community of your own. Follow this process and you will succeed in creating a strong community of loyal customers and followers.
Once you are able to create a brand community, don’t forget to leverage it to build your brand further. Your community is the best place to find loyal customers whom you can turn into brand advocates to promote your brand.
Have any questions on how to create a brand community? Feel free to leave a comment.
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About the Author:
Gaurav Sharma is the Founder of Attrock, a digital marketing company. He works closely with top marketing influencers and has helped numerous brands, ecommerce firms, and SaaS companies grow. He is also a certified Google Analytics and Google Adwords specialist and regularly contributes to reputable publications like HuffPost, TechCrunch, and many more.