How to Build a Brand Community that Actually Cares
This blog post is based on Lucas Helaouet’s (Spitche) presentation at our online conference, Printful Threads: How to Grow Your Ecommerce Business with Organic Marketing. Watch all presentations on our YouTube channel.
One of the mistakes I see companies of all sizes make is assuming that your brand community is the people buying your products.
Your customers are certainly a part of your brand community—and a very important one. After all, they’re the ones who keep the lights on for your business. But there are also many people you might not even consider to be invested in your content, yet they can still affect your business. If you don’t include them in your communication strategy, you’re missing out on growing a loyal following and making more sales.
What’s a brand community?
When you’re marketing your business online, you’re inclined to think about your audiences because that’s how most of the social media platforms are built. When we go on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, we focus on sharing our message with people we want to share our message with. But I believe this approach is faulty.
Your brand community is not the group of people you’re trying to reach.
Your brand community is the people who are interested in what you’re saying.
Think of a teacher talking to a classroom. The brand community in this example is not the whole classroom—just because you’re talking to people doesn’t mean they’re interested. The brand community is those who are paying attention.
Why should you build a brand community?
First and foremost, your brand community is a powerful business tool.
Imagine having a loyal group of people that you can regularly reach out to for advice, feedback, and inspiration. This group can help you make customer-driven decisions and spread the word about your business on social media and other online channels, all free of charge.
These people should in fact be your go-to source for information and feedback. Use their insights to test new product designs, share blog content, and collect ideas for improvement on your website.
To get access to this invaluable information, you need to build a strong and thriving online community where members get rewarded for everything they do for your brand.
For smaller brands, especially those who are a team of 1, your business will very often be linked to your personal life. Your brand community will be your existing customers, your family, friends, followers, newsletter subscribers, website visitors that you can track, and also website visitors you might not be able to identify.
The members of your brand community can participate in one or several of these activities:
- Engage with your content by liking, sharing, and commenting on it
- Produce user-generated content (UGC) for your brand for free
- Defend your brand and advocate for it
- Publicly talk about your brand
- Recommend your brand to others
Why do they do all of that? Because they want to. And the best part is, they don’t ask anything in return. That’s what makes it organic marketing—these people are promoting your brand of their own free will. They do it for free, and often without you even knowing it.
There’s a big difference between being aware of a brand and being emotionally invested in it, and that difference is emotional connection.
How to start making a real connection
Each individual has a community of their own. And that community can be reached through that one person. Make people feel welcome, and you’ll be able to expand your reach even further. Here are four things you can do to create a sense of belonging within your community.
- Talk to people. Sounds obvious, but it works! Asking customers for feedback through email and replying back and chatting with your followers on Instagram through the comment section are just a few easy steps you can take to interact with people.
- Put your online community members in the spotlight. Most of us like being in the spotlight, so share your customers’ content that features your product (ask for permission first!).
- Reshare their pictures if people tag you. Even if the photo quality isn’t the best, it’s authentic and it’s done by your brand community, so it’s priceless. And sometimes your customers will create true masterpieces:
- Ask for feedback. You can learn a ton from your brand community because an engaged community is doing the work for you. They’re sharing who they are, what they want, where they’re based, and what they like. Run polls and ask them to vote on their favorite design. That way you’ll be selling products people actually want to buy. Additionally, you can ask them for feedback on quality, thoughts on online store layout, and what they want to see next from your brand.
How to harness the power of your brand community
43% of US customers spend more on brands to which they’re loyal. So the more effort you’ll make to keep your brand community engaged, the more successful your brand will become. There are several ways you can use your brand community’s insights to improve your marketing and advertising strategy.
- Optimize ads. Organic marketing can be used to create effective ads. Take the knowledge you have about your customers, and create a lookalike audience of the most engaged members of your brand community. Run A/B tests to create more impactful campaigns.
- Use the user-generated content to boost your brand’s authenticity. Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view UGC compared to content produced by brands. Let your customers’ photos do the talking for you. You can repurpose these images on social media, add them to your product listings, and use them as visuals for ads.
- Offer exclusive product access for your brand community. To boost loyalty, give your community the VIP treatment with exclusive perks like pre-sale access or sneak peeks at new collections.
There are some great tools out there you can use to identify the most engaged consumers, understand their behavior, engagement, purchase triggers, and pain points. One of these tools is Spitche, a brand experience (BX) software that allows rewarding your online community members for everything they do for your brand: posting pictures with your products on Instagram, engagement on Facebook, and more.
Building a brand community is crucial for your success
Your brand community is the people who elevate your business into something more than just a website with products.
To build an online community that cares about the stuff you sell or post, show that you care about them too! Interact with members and make them feel welcome. Don’t praise and reward only your customers—they’re already buying from you. Reward your brand community because likes, shares, comments, and reviews are what keeps your brand alive and helps it evolve.
The next step is involving your community in the decision-making process. The information you’ll gather from them will help you boost your brand authenticity, run more effective ads, and extend your reach.
What steps have you already taken to build a brand community? Let us know in the comments!