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How to Tap Into Community and Drive Engagement With Live Experiences Live experiences a are great way to positively grow your brand image.

By Kyle Michaud

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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"Customer engagement" is a broad term used by brands for different reasons. Of course, one thing can be said across the spectrum: Customer engagement defines the emotional connection between brands and their customers.

Related: Lady Gaga Taught Me These 4 Secrets to Building a Successful Brand

Put another way, according to CRM expert Paul Greenberg, customer engagement is an ongoing interaction between brands and their customers.

Why is investing in customer engagement so important? Simply put, because highly engaged customers have more impact on your business. These customers buy more, promote more and show higher levels of loyalty.

According to Marketo, 63 percent of marketers agree that customer engagement includes renewals, repeat purchases and retention.

Businesses consider customer engagement as an important element in building up brand image. A great way to positively grow your brand image? Create live experiences.

To share an example, every year over 12,000 yogis join roughly 200 wellness brands at The Yoga Expo in Los Angeles. This annual event is put on by Experience Expositions, a company I created. This live experience is successful thanks to the community feel I've created at the event, where yogis can meet and practice with the best instructors. Brands participate by hosting giveaways, spreading the word via information booths and interacting with attendees one on one.

Related: 15 Steps to Building Your Online Tribe

Surely, you've attended an event like this, where you had the opportunity to interact with a brand in a new, engaging way. But, how do you replicate this customer engagement idea for your own company?

Connect like-minded people.

Are you familiar with the "Instagram Concept"?

The Instagram Concept connects people with common interests on the popular image sharing platform, in terms of things like the use of certain hashtags such as:

  • #bookstagram: book community
  • #artstagram or #artistsofinstagram: art community
  • #fashiongrammer: fashion influencers
  • #catsofinstagram: cat lovers

Similar things can be said of Facebook groups, which are used as a platform to build an online community where people with common interests have a shared space to interact.

These same concepts can be used to create live experiences that improve customer engagement. A focus by brands on shared interests in real-world settings builds a solid foundation that encourages engagement.

Related: How I Built a 2,500-Person Event on a Shoestring Budget

Emphasize a "we" mentality.

Customer relationships are one of the greatest factors that marketers consider when it comes to promoting business. In order to build an effective business-customer relationship, there needs to be communication.

Some companies make the mistake of establishing an "us" and "them" relationship when it comes to dealing with customers. In cases such as these, a switch to a "community" mindset breaks down this barrier, changing it to a "we" orientation.

When it comes to good customer engagement, the interaction between parties involved is not purely transactional. The people involved get to share a space where they can interact with others who share the same interests.

Incorporating a live experience helps to reinvent the brand interaction to be less sales-y.

Be the host.

Once you've established your willingness to do more events to drive community, it's important to identify the interests, passions and behaviors of the community you wish to engage before creating your event. However, don't be afraid to start small and build on your successes.

I recommend developing small events at first that provide value to your customers. For example, if you have a new snack bar for athletes, create a monthly running club on Eventbrite where you give out free swag. Whoever shows up will give you good insights into who your core audience/potential customers truly are, and how you can improve your product. Fitbit provides the ideal example of a brand tapping Eventbrite to build customer engagement through live events.

Furthermore, you can now consider your brand as an insider to this community because of your role in it. Actively hosting your brand's community will help you create content, reach more interested people thanks to social media content by participants and consider new ideas that better engage customers.

Related: Impressive Isn't Always Impactful in Experiential Marketing

Limit your brand's role.

Tapping into community and common interests relevant to your brand attract the people who are truly interested in what you have to offer. Take The Yoga Expo for example, where the community involved is composed of yogis and world-class instructors -- people who will relate the most with the brands involved with the live experience.

For The Yoga Expo and other events I develop, I try to keep brand engagement and marketing to a minimum, and you should, too, if you put on your own event. A true community-centered event will allow everyone to play a role and have a voice. Building community through live events (and otherwise) will allow for organic and sometimes very real feedback. It's critical that brands don't get defensive or try to curb discussion or feedback from their community, rather embrace it, take feedback into consideration from panels or what have you, and communicate improvements to your product or service once they're made. This will drive brand engagement and establish customer trust.

Authentic customer engagement is most easily sparked by the chance for brand representatives to meet with customers (and potential customers) in person. Creating an experience that puts the consumer first and brand second will be more appealing to customers, as they will feel that they are obtaining value on multiple fronts. It's up to you as a brand owner to realize that building community and providing unselfish, unbranded value will be what ultimately comes back to benefit your company's bottom line.

How do you drive customer engagement and build community, through live experiences or otherwise? Let me know in the comments!

Kyle Michaud

Founder of Experience Expositions

Kyle Michaud founded The Yoga Expo, which takes place in Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles annually. The Yoga Expo attracted over 94,000 attendees in 2017, and Michaud plans to keep expanding and progressing.

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