A brand community is ‘A community in which consumers who share a set of social relationships based upon usage or interest in a product gather and mutually interact’. It is more often than not both -online and offline.
The benefits of a brand community include – building customer loyalty, reducing the need for advertising, increasing customer retention, cross selling, up selling, and building value and margins.
Building a brand community is essentially about building an engaged tribe and paying attention to:
- Identifying the target audience
It is important to define exactly who will become a member of this brand community with a view to targeting all communication directly at that audience. The principle of the smallest viable market is important here.
- Research and understand the audience
It is essential to understand the target audience and potential tribe as well as possible. Identify exactly what they are interested in, what messaging they will respond to, what media they use most often, and what will engage them.
- Resolve to engage not sell
The minute you start selling, the chances of building a brand community evaporate. Think how you feel when someone tries to sell to you on LinkedIn. You hate it. Building a brand community is all about engagement, not selling. Sales will come in good time – and it takes time.
- Show leadership
You cannot build a community or a tribe from the outside. You have to be a part of it. Ideally, you need to lead the community. Every tribe has a leader who shows direction, enforces standards, and generally keeps the community moving in the right direction.
- Stand for something
Just as your brand needs to stand for something if it is to be a brand, so your community needs to have a vision, values, and a personality. It needs to have a strong ethos, a clear reason for being, and a very clear value proposition.
- Not limit yourself to online
The digital environment is ideal for building a brand community and even better for facilitating ongoing communication. However, it is important to also leverage the potential of offline opportunities including events that community members can attend in person.
- Add value and embrace exclusivity
Groucho Marx once said – ‘I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.’ This points to the importance of exclusivity and building a strong value proposition that will encourage members of your target audience to want to join.
- Establish a platform for communication
Without connection there is no community, and without communication there is no connection. A brand community must offer a platform – possibly a Facebook or Linked In group, or a forum on the brand website – that enables members of the community to communicate.
- Go viral as quickly as possible
Share material online and offline that members of the target audience want to share with friends and relatives – or other potential community members. Rich and valuable content that informs, inspires, and engages members in a unique way is essential.