Community marketing doesn’t always come to mind when marketing strategies are discussed and considered. However, community marketing can be very beneficial to a business, as well as its customers. Building an online community and interacting with your customers is valuable for many reasons, not just improving your bottom line.
If you’re not sure exactly what community marketing is or why and how to build a community brand, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll take a look at community marketing in-depth and examine how you can go about using this technique to benefit your business.
This article will discuss:
What is Community Marketing?
Community marketing involves creating and/or engaging with a community of current customers or a group of people that represents your target audience. How a business goes about engaging with a community can come in many different forms – they may create one to bring consumers together, join an already existing community or do both.
The best strategy when it comes to this type of marketing is to do both – build your own community and participate in already existing ones. The community may be directly related to the business’ product or service or it might just be based on a topic related to their product or service. The most important thing is that communication and engagement carried out via the community is done in a non-intrusive way that focuses on providing the consumer with value.
Some of the most common platforms used for community development include social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as message boards and forums. While most communities these days are built online, brand communities can also be developed in the real-world. For example, conferences and trade shows are great for connecting with current customers and like-minded groups.
The focus of community marketing, unlike many other forms of advertising, is on connecting and engaging with current customers and other like-minded consumers in order to build a strong and lasting relationship.
While traditional forms of advertising often focus specifically on selling and drawing in new customers, community branding aims to foster communication between business and consumer, adding value to the relationship.
Added value is a huge factor for consumers in today’s marketplace and can make or break your business. Consumers these days expect more from the brands they buy from and community marketing can help you build the relationship that is needed to establish longstanding, loyal customers.
There are many great examples of online communities out there. Of these great community examples, Sephora is one company who really knows how to do it right.
Sephora’s forum, Beauty Talk, allows users to have conversations about all things beauty. The company requires users to create an account in order to participate, gaining them valuable insights into their customer base, as well as an email list that they can use for further communication.
The forum allows users to have discussions amongst themselves while offering Sephora the ability to weigh in and participate. This helps them establish strong relationships with their current and potential customers.
While the goal of community marketing is to build a strong, large community where communication flows openly and smoothly between company and consumer, there are many additional benefits that come as a result.
Why is Community Marketing Useful?
Brand communities provide a win-win for organizations. While they see many benefits for their business, and their profits as a result, their customers also experience added value.
The benefits of community marketing to a business include:
- The ability to show your customers that you care about them
- Making consumers feel appreciated and involved
- Learning more about your customers – their wants, needs, preferences, concerns and buying habits
- Insight into new solutions, products and services based on the knowledge gained about your customers
- The ability to test new product and services – with a loyal community behind you, you can test out new product and service ideas before bringing them to market
- Improved customer retention and loyalty
- Brand advocacy and word-of-mouth advertising
- Development of user-generated content
- Decreased spending on traditional forms of media
- Diversifying your marketing strategy and reducing reliance on paid ads
- Attracting new customers
- Increased profits
- Building a positive reputation
- Decreased customer support costs
Community marketing is a great way to boost your Public Relations strategy. Learn more about PR Strategy and how to develop one at “PR Strategy: Your Guide to Developing a Killer Public Relations Strategy.”
The benefits to consumers include:
- Ability express their concerns, likes and dislikes
- Feeling heard and appreciated by the brands they love
- Getting answers to their questions quickly
While the benefits are many, and greatly outweigh the costs, creating a successful online brand community is no easy task. However, there are several strategies that can be used to ensure you are putting your best foot forward when it comes to this type of marketing.
5 Strategies for Successful Community Marketing
Not all companies succeed when it comes to creating and contributing to a community alongside their clients and customers. When developing a community it’s important to keep several things in mind in order to be successful.
Here are some strategies to help you build a brand community of your own, or to participate in an already existing community.
1. Keep it conversational
Nobody wants to hear from that company that is always trying to sell something to them. It’s important that when creating an online community, or participating in one that already exists, that you don’t come across as too aggressive.
Make sure you are there to listen, help and learn. Keep your contributions conversational rather than sales focused. This also means avoiding controversial topics, arguments and any topic that could potentially negatively trigger the community. Those kinds of topics need a thought-out, well planned strategy instead of an on-the-spot response, no matter how fast you may be.
2. Regularly contribute
Make sure you’re not one of those companies that just drops in on a conversation, posts a sales pitch and then leaves again.
You need to add value to the conversation – you want to regularly contribute helpful, interesting and educational content that community members will find useful and engaging, not just content that’s focused on marketing. Genuinely engage with your community and find their pain points. If possible, keep track of regular contributors and reach out consistently to form a good relationship with them.
These contributors often end up being the largest contributors to word-of-mouth advertising within their own social circles!
3. Respond quickly
If you are establishing your presence in an online community, it’s important that you are accessible at all times. Consumers online expect to hear back from companies, especially when it comes to getting an answer to their question, quickly.
The whole point of community marketing is to build a community around your brand and/or business. Social media has made it easier than ever before for companies to be “present” around the clock, even if support staff aren’t. Most people will actively reach out you via platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook so effective community marketing needs a commitment to stay involved.
Make sure you are monitoring the community and responding to questions and comments as quickly as possible. A response within 24 hours is ideal, although exceptions for weekends and holidays may apply.
Oftentimes, a Social Media Manager will be the first point of contact between online, digital and social platforms and the company as a whole. Find out 8 more reasons why you need a Social Media Manager in “Social Media Manager – 9 Reasons You Need One”
4. Present a consistent persona and message
Whether you’re posting educational content or responding to a customer’s concern, make sure your brand voice is consistent. Do you want consumers to see your company as being approachable and fun-loving?
Make sure to present a light and funny tone in all of your messaging. If your product or service is more serious, you may want to take up a more consistently serious and academic tone. Above, we can see Wendy’s online Twitter persona responding to a customer inquiry. Such a persona can actually be extremely effective in spurring engagement and could be a means of viral marketing.
Either way, just be sure to be consistent with the persona you are trying to establish in order to avoid confusing your customers.
5. Harness the power of influencers
Make sure to find and establish a relationship with influencers in your industry. Engage with these influencers and make them feel that they are a part of your team. Ask for their advice and comments, and utilize this information.
Establishing a strong, positive relationship with these influencers will go a long way in developing brand ambassadors who will vouch for you and promote your product or service (at no cost to you!).
Bonus tip: Thank your loyal community members with rewards that are designed just for them.
Not only does this show them how much you care about them and their contributions to your community but it also offers them additional value – just another reason for them to stick around.
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While community marketing may not be as easy as publishing a Facebook ad, its benefits far outweigh the costs and the effort required to build and participate in a community.
When done well, community marketing can result in loyal customers who will promote your brand for you, without the need to spend any money on traditional forms of media.
In order to create a positive brand community and effectively participate in other online communities make sure to:
- Avoid posting salesy content that annoys consumers – keep it engaging and educational
- Contribute on a regular basis with interesting and beneficial content
- Respond quickly to comments and questions posted by consumers
- Present a consistent brand voice in all of the content you post
- Interact and build relationships with valuable influencers
With these tips in mind, you’re sure to establish a strong and positive community that will result in satisfied customers who are willing to vouch for you and your business.