Don't try to beat the algorithm. Instead build your tribe.
Marketers in a variety of industries are trying to increase customer loyalty, marketing efficiency, and brand authenticity by building communities around their brands. Few companies, however, understand what brand communities require and how they work.
What even is community?
When it comes to the concept of ‘community’ most brands and marketers see it purely as building a following who they can then broadcast to on a regular basis, without having to shell out more and more ad-cash to reach them. But they're missing an important point...
True communities are not passive recipients of business-to-customer communications. They are peer-to-peer interactions that provide value for both company and members. The role of the brand is as a facilitator not just as a broadcaster.
Do customers want to form a deep and meaningful connection with every brand they transact with?
No, they don't. For many, the relationship is purely transactional. So if you do choose to build one, be intentional and purposeful about it.
Here's how modern enterprises are going about it:
1. Self-directed communities
Are about creating spaces for customers to interact with one another and providing value and insight for those who participate. For example, Modern Fertility has built a Slack channel that’s a safe space for all people “with ovaries living in the 21st century” to discuss fertility, and share information and advice on women’s health.
2. Community as a springboard for linear commerce
Is about rapidly growing audiences to springboard the development of adjacent products and services they would be interested in. Reese Witherspoon uses her incredibly popular bookclub Hello Sunshine to highlight new authors and stories, which she then options to turn them into series or films, only to sell the final product back to the book club community as insatiable viewers.
3. Community as a platform for social commerce
Is about partnering with creators and incentivising them to spark social commerce sales. Walmart announced the launch of a new platform called Walmart Creator that makes it easy for creators to monetize shoppable products from the retailer. Creators who sign up will have access to tens of thousands of products and are given the opportunity to earn revenue all while earning commissions on sales they refer with no cap.
4. Community as collaborators
Is about creating two-way dialogues with customers to get their feedback and ideas. In the early days of Glossier, the brand created a private Slack channel for a select group of superfans and asked them for feedback on formulations for moisturisers, packaging design and colours for their makeup range. When they released those products to the public, the people involved in the shaping of those products acted as a highly motivated distribution and marketing channel.
5. Community as co-creators
Is about inviting and rewarding audiences who use their creative talents to build new ideas. Seeking ideas for TV shows, digital videos and toy sets, Lego is asking people to share their imaginings on a new platform set up for that purpose. Called Lego World Builder, the platform users propose story worlds, characters and other ideas by uploading concept art, videos and descriptions. Lego will buy the ideas it likes.
6. Community as investors
Is about aligning with customers so they feel invested in a brand's upside. Brewdog in 2010, offered a small but loyal group of customers the opportunity to invest into its business. Equity for Punks was equity crowdfunding before equity crowdfunding even existed. It raised 570,000 GBP from the first round of Equity Punks and along the way created a whole new generation of business model.
How might we cultivate community?
Cultivating a passionate community around your brand involves a deep understanding of culture, and a genuine desire to create something people love.
The Community Flywheel (credit: Commsor)
This handy checklist can help you work out the best approach for your brand, to unlock a lifetime value of advocacy, insights and predictable revenue.
- Who is your audience? And why should they care?
- Why do you want to build community?
- What is the role for the brand?
- What value will you create for the community, and what value will members provide each other?
- What values and norms will you model and expect of the community?
- How will you incentivize, recognize, and reward participation?
- How will you structure and manage the community?
- How and where will you deliver insights from these conversations to the rest of the company?
If you’re looking to build your tribe, get in touch.