5 Ways to Build a Community Around Your Brand
There's a way to build your market without spending a fortune on advertising and marketing - and it's called community building. Here's why this should be the cornerstone of your growth strategy.
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In their first three years of business, social media management tool Hootsuite grew from zero to three million users. It's an impressive feat for any company, but what's even more notable is that they did so with virtually no advertising or marketing budget.
Instead, they grew through community building. A team of 18 staff members and 100 influencers grew the company in a grassroots manner — all thanks to community engagement, according to their CEO Ryan Holmes.
Below are five steps that you can use to grow your brand or company using community building as a key strategic tactic.
1.Define what your brand is and what it stands for
Before you can build a community around your brand, you have to know what that brand is. Do you have a mission statement?
Do you know exactly who your target audience and community is? Do you have the content ready and armed to engage this community each and every day?
Here's a classic example: The colour pink doesn't try to make itself greener, hoping to appeal to everybody who loves both. Pink is pink, and you either like it or you don't. There are no apologies and no justifications.
So, what's your "pink'? What do you stand for that nobody else does?
What type of people do you want in your community and, more importantly, who don't you want to include? Move on to the next step only after you've answered these questions.
OFFER VALUE AND EXCLUSIVITY
The best brands offer their communities:
- Emotional safety
- Personal investment
- Insider status
2.Find the right way to connect to your community
Once you've identified what your brand stands for and who you are wanting to target, the next step is the "where' and the "how'.
That means choosing the right platform based on the following:
- Size of your audience
- How your audience prefers to engage
- The features you need
- Your technical skill level
- Your budget.
When you're first starting out, think small and simple. A basic forum might be enough for your website, or my favourite, utilising Facebook groups if your users access it via mobile devices.
Remember, Facebook organic reach is dying at a rapid pace, so groups will be the ideal way to interact directly with your customers.
Use these test forums to see how your community members interact. As their numbers and engagement grow, you'll be better equipped to choose the right platform down the road.
3.Make community membership valuable and exclusive
There are five factors that make joining a community valuable for customers:
- Emotional safety
- A sense of belonging and identification
- Personal investment
- A common symbol system.
Your community members need to feel safe sharing with others in your group. They need to feel that they're accepted and that they've "earned' their spot in the community. They also need to be able to understand the group's social norms and how to communicate like an "insider'.
How can you build these factors into your community? Possible strategies include:
- Clearly defining and enforcing moderation standards
- Limiting membership to a select group who have achieved certain status (perhaps, by buying a product or opting into a challenge or course from you)
- Encouraging the development of inside jokes and memes
- Giving top users benefits — even if it's just icons for use in their posts that denote their status, or free products, discounts, invites to secret events and so on. In other words, make it exclusive.
4.Get the community talking to each other
Every community will go through an "awkward phase' where conversations feel a little forced and people aren't initiating conversations on their own. It will pass. Keep building your community one person at a time, and it will eventually begin to flow naturally.
Don't be discouraged by lack of engagement or feedback — If you have customers within the community, they are seeing your content and taking it in, they just need a little time to come out of their shell. The key? Keep providing value.
5.Give more than you get
Lastly, why would your users remain part of your community if they aren't getting any value out of it? Invest whatever resources you have into creating a stellar community experience.
Provide helpful resources. Answer questions. Offer whatever support you have to in order to delight your community members. Your efforts will come back to you in the form of engaged followers, future purchases, and possible referrals.