Community Marketing: What is it & how it helps organizations

Community marketing is a growing tactic that savvy marketers are using to engage and retain customers long term. Learn how it can help your business succeed.
Community Marketing: What is it & how it helps organizations

Today’s customers want more than transactions from the brands they deal with. This rings true across both B2C and B2B. People want to be a part of something bigger, for their identity to align with the brands that they deal with. As a result, marketers have been forced to re-write the marketing playbook when it comes to attracting and retaining customers.

A major part of this involves community marketing, to build strong relationships between brands and their customers, that are driven by two-way conversation. The rise of brand communities offers a new opportunity for marketers to foster deeper connections with customers and prospects.

What is community-based marketing?

Community marketing is a way to connect a brand with a specific community, whether that’s prospects and existing customers, industry experts, partners, or a mix. Communities tap into our need to socialize and learn from peers, so aligning a brand with them can be a powerful way to build lasting customer relationships and brand loyalty. Over 80% of customers state that being treated like a person, not a number, is very important in winning their business. 

Community-based marketing involves using the right strategy, processes, and technology to help marketers to connect with groups of dedicated community members. Communities can be offline, online, or hybrid, depending on a target audience’s and brand’s needs. 

At the core of every successful community are three characteristics, so an effective community marketing strategy will reflect this:

  1. People: A group of people with common goals and interests come together and differentiate themselves identity-wise from those outside the community.

  2. Acts and behaviors: They carry out specific acts and behaviors that solidify their culture and the meaning of the community.

  3. Belonging and accountability: People understand the need to help other community members and work together to achieve goals. This fosters a sense of belonging to the community. 

Types of community marketing

While all communities aim to unite like-minded community members, there are six types of expert community that it’s worth knowing about to shape a community marketing strategy.

  1. Expert communities - spaces that enhance a brand’s authority in its sector by facilitating learning, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration between members.
  2. Event communities - to complement in-person events and hold virtual events.
  3. Membership communities - enabling members to meet one another, collaborate and connect. 
  4. Support communities - places where people can get advice from one another and troubleshoot any issues — works as an additional support resource for a customer success team. 
  5. Communities of action - uniting people under a collective mission and goals.

The community that you choose will ultimately depend on what you want to achieve from it — your business and community’s goals. 

Benefits of community marketing

Building a thriving community around your brand is one of the best ways to stand out in the market, offer customers lifelong value, design better products and services, and increase trust. GlobalWebIndex has found that community members prefer using online communities over other communication channels like social media platforms because they get more meaningful conversations (36% higher), feel more appreciated (21% higher), and develop a sense of belonging (18% higher). 

Beyond this, there are a few distinct benefits that stem from growing a brand community that are worth exploring further.

  • Complementing other marketing efforts

It’s getting harder to cut through the noise of the many ads and marketing messages out there today. It’s estimated that the average person sees up to 10,000 advertisements a day, so it’s little wonder that ad fatigue is on the rise. Online communities are able to connect with audiences over the long-term, engaging them regularly in two-way discourse and delivering value to their daily lives. They encourage people to return regularly, to interact with the community and therefore your brand. 

A brand community works well within a wider marketing strategy and complements other channels like a Facebook page, email marketing, content marketing, and more. Social media accounts, for example, can drive new traffic to an online community where they are then nurtured and converted. Content can be re-purposed from a community (or vice versa) to showcase a brand, and its community members' expertise. 

  • Increased customer referrals

Word of mouth marketing pays off. When referred by other customers, people have a 37% higher retention rate and a 70% higher conversion rate. Their lifetime value is also 16% higher than that of non-referred customers. Communities, as a space for people to gather around a shared interest or goal, are the perfect location for referrals to be made organically. In the Sephora community, for instance, customers share their tips with others and naturally recommend Sephora products in the process. 

Over time, your most active and loyal customers can be offered exclusive product access and discounts to convert them into brand ambassadors who actively generate unique content and referrals. 

  • Differentiation 

Providing unique opportunities through your community, in the form of exclusive content or industry experts, can add value beyond selling a product or service. This can differentiate your brand from competitors and increase the lifetime value of a customer as they consistently return to the community. 

  • Hearing your customers

Communities are a great way to make your customers and prospects feel heard, seen, and important. They are more likely to stay, and pay more for a product or service if they feel strongly connected to it and invested in its success. Feedback can be gathered more organically, and with more regularity, through an online community during the course of discussions on the platform. Your customer success team can ask questions in the community and select members can even beta test new products or features. You no longer have to rely solely on market research, as you have a ready and waiting target audience already engaged in your community. 

Community marketing: what to measure?

It can be overwhelming to understand what to track in a community. Here are our top 5 KPIs to measure, track and improve in community marketing:

  1. Reach: The total number of visitors to your community will give you an indicator of your reach, which is a leading indicator of your community growth. Understanding the sources of traffic to your community will be essential in order to grow it. Remember to focus on quality over quantity - keep a close eye on those taking the desired actions and when inside the community.
  2. Member growth: A clear metric of community success is how it grows over time. Track the total number of users acquired over six months, or new user growth month-on-month. 
  3. Member engagement: Once in the door, how are you members interacting with you and with eachother? Track the total number of likes and comments in a week or month, or how many members posted comments? You can also look at these as percentages of the total member base or measure it week-on-week or month-on-month.
  4. Stickiness: Calculating Stickiness across Zapnito Communities looks at the ratio between your Daily Active Users and Monthly Active Users. For example, a DAU/MAU ratio of 50% means that the average user is returning to your community 15 out of 30 days a month. This is a key metric in defining how engaged users are with your community, and how embedded it is their day-to-day activity.
  5. Community-generated content: Community-generated content is an indicator of a very mature community. By empowering community members to contribute to the community, they become more engaged and less likely to churn. Plus it creates invaluable testimonials and customer advocacy content to repurpose in other campaigns.

Time to flourish

Having a community marketing strategy will be a gamechanger for your brand and marketing team. Communities require trust and time to grow into something truly differentiating and valuable to your business. Strong relationships require care and consistency to flourish. Put the effort in and a brand community will help your business stand the test of time — at a time when customers are tuning out from other marketing and advertising tactics. 

Ready to get started? Book your discovery call and see how we can help you to engage, retain and grow your community.