There a number of reasons why organisations of all shapes and sizes should consider building a branded community. Personally, I consider any group, passionate about what they do, who they speak to and what they produce to qualify as an entity in need of a digital platform from which to communicate with others. If you are having a conversation about your product or service or especially writing about this, then you need a trusted, personable space to present your expert knowledge and insights to your audience.
Laura has already outlined what it takes to build and manage a successful branded community so the next question is ‘why?’. Why do many businesses in a varying range of industries believe it’s worth it? Well let’s start with the concept of a ‘brand community’ itself.
Thomas C. O’Guinn and Albert Muniz (2001) defines “brand community” as a like-minded group of consumers who identify with a particular brand and share significant traits and also describe these as having “shared consciousness, rituals, traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility.”
So you don’t need to be an Apple or a Nike to have a company following. By definition, affinity for a brand is personal: for example Primark shoppers may be every bit as passionate about their brand as Harley Davidson riders.
Steve Jobs on the challenge of branding: “To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us, no company is.” Connecting with your customers, your followers and all your stakeholders on a regular basis however proves to them that you care for them and want them to be involved in your business to drive ideas and brand engagement, no matter how small you start.
Does your enterprise tick both of these boxes?
1) Our brand has unique values, which differentiate our customers from others ▢
2) A means for your audience to engage in a public experience of said brand ▢
If your answers are ‘yes’ to the first but ‘no’ to the latter (or if they are ‘no’ to both), then you are in need of a digital community. If you answered ‘yes’ to the second because you have a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook (or a subsidiary) profile then you may wish to read my previous article on the disadvantages of using these and Charles’ ‘hidden cost of social media groups’ post. The short answer is, social media platforms aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Christopher's (1991) Relationship Marketing Ladder of Customer Loyalty theory remains just as relevant almost thirty years later. Driving movement between stages from prospective customer to return buyer can be a difficult process. Once this is achieved and customers are staying true to your brand however, the benefits are bountiful. And as a 2018 study from Motista found, ‘consumers with an emotional connection to brands have a 306% better lifetime value than those only ‘satisfied’ with their experience’, which is what drives loyalty and ideally, advocacy.
Why are branded communities better than social media groups?
As I’ve already illustrated in my ‘5 great example of brand communities’ post, social media platforms can’t cut it. Building your digital network of audiences and other important stakeholders enables you to control what messages and what content they see from you and also how they can engage in it. It is beneficial to have planned and implemented this as early in the brand’s lifetime as possible to connect every important customer and user with your experts however mature firms have also proven to achieve this successfully.
The major incentive of using a community platform over social media sites is that you have a say in the way the product is built and the improvements you’d like to see in it. Have you been affected by Twitter’s or Facebook’s many algorithm changes in recent years? As I always say on this topic, wouldn’t you prefer a platform that you can trust? One that you can rely on to put your community’s interests first. There are alternatives to Zuckerberg’s ad machine, driven by data and user manipulation.
The defining qualities of any brand are reflected in the consumers. Digital communities allow corporations of any scale to connect each stakeholder with an aim of driving interaction and engagement around your brand’s expert output.
There are plenty of flourishing online communities out there but I chose five here and gave them a quick rundown. Brands like Adobe, Spotify, Vitality, Sony and Kinaxis engage with their audiences not just through their own content but through two-way conversation on an individual level. This is how successful communities are built. If you’re interested in finding out more about creating your own branded community, why not have a chat with one of our Solutions Executives?