“No man is an island”, wrote John Donne. Do overlook his gender partiality if you can. He was writing in 1624 (and it really was a different time). Still, his words continue to ring true centuries later: very few of us thrive in solitude. We’re communal creatures. We love to get together to exchange news and ideas. Community is where it’s at.
This is one of the reasons why community marketing is so popular and effective. In an age of enhanced connectivity, we can feel part of a community that stretches beyond our society or country. Community can now encompass the world, which is only good news for a marketer.
Let’s take a closer look at what community marketing is and how you can leverage it for commercial success.
Understanding Community Marketing
Whatever you’re selling, whether it’s cloud-compatible apps or ice cream, business is all about relationships. Business success thrives on positive relationships between:
- Provider and customer
- Supplier and retailer
- Marketer and market
But what about the customer and customer relationship?
Community marketing is a way of bringing customers together by gathering them around a brand. These are usually people who are already connected in some way, such as basketball fans.
A community marketer does this by focusing on customer needs and not ramming a brand down their throats. It highlights customers’ needs and invites them to coalesce around the solution your brand represents.
Why is Community Marketing Important?
Community marketing’s importance lies in its impact and how it manages this. It does so because of how it treats people and makes customers feel.
A community strategy treats people as mature agents, able to make their own minds up about a product. This is an especially useful approach when dealing with Gen-Z customers, who tend to have quite firm views on what they want and don’t want and buy based on need.
Image sourced from wordstream.com
The important fact to grasp about community marketing is its emphasis on the customers, not the brand. You may stand more of a chance of success if the message is delivered in a manner suited to the community of customers. Additionally, it should be saying something they want to hear.
Community Marketing Components
There are three main components to bear in mind with a community marketing plan.
- There is a group of people – the community.
- The community exhibits certain behaviors that delineate it from non-community members.
- The community members recognize the need to support each other in order for the community to flourish.
When considering your community marketing strategy, looking at the first component is important. Decide on what online community you’re going to aim for.
Identifying Your Target Community
Define your target audience.
This is usually a pretty straightforward step, at least in terms of getting things generally right. For instance, will your product appeal to IT workers? Or, more specifically, Git Ops coders?
Or, going back to those basketball fans, if you’re making basketball shoes, it’s a no-brainer that your community will be all about this sport. However, this is a little broad. It might help shape things if you can drill down and find something more niche.
Maybe your shoes are cost-effective. Maybe they’re designed by basketball experts themselves. Or maybe they’re 75% recycled, meaning that you can target eco-conscious customers.
It’s not as unlikely as you’d think. Sports fans tend to demonstrate higher eco-concern than the average person.
Image sourced from strivesponsorship.com
Defining your target audience will involve a lot of research and data collection. You need to know as much about your customers as you can. You can find this information via:
- Customer surveys
- Website analytics
- Social media analytics
- Customer interviews
- Customer relationship management (CRM) systems
- Competitive analysis
Once you have a list of contacts, you can use an email builder to make sure your outreach is professional and efficient.
Research their interests and needs.
So, now you can look into what makes this kind of person tick. They’re plainly into the game, but now you know they also have an environmental conscience. What do these people need to be wearing? A pair of shoes that performs on the court and that doesn’t harm the planet. Step forward your shoes!
Identify common values and goals.
Again, we’re looking at a wish to get balls in nets without any cost to the earth. Environmentalism correlates with an interest in animal welfare and vegetarianism, so factor these characteristics in. Other potential correlations include those who prefer domestic holidays and seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. Also, cycling groups and solar panel customers.
As you can see, the list of groups with common values and goals can be as large as you have time to make it. We’re all connected, you see?
Building and Growing Your Community
Create a platform or space for your community marketing
Every community needs a gathering space. Whether it’s bikers in a bar or stamp collectors in a village hall, the nature of community is that there are encounters within it, and these encounters have to take place somewhere.
Online community spaces offer customers from around the world a chance to connect with each other. You can create community spaces via:
- Online community platforms.
- Social media platforms.
- Website forums.
- Communication platforms like Discord.
Kick off your community marketing efforts by starting up a blog and welcome comments from readers. Then, take it from there.
Encourage active participation and engagement.
In our basketball example, you can create a community that’s primarily about basketball. Why? Because there’s nothing like sport to get people engaged. Especially a sport as popular as basketball.
Image sourced from statista.com
Passionate posts will proliferate, and exchanges will fire up. (It’s a good idea to institute certain rules of engagement here.)
Utilize social media and online tools.
Community marketing depends fundamentally on social media. Things would be a struggle without the facility social media marketing offers for community-building. Using a social media platform like Facebook to create a discussion space is how you get everybody to feel like they’re participating in a real entity.
Collaborate with influencers or partners.
A hugely important connection to be made is with influencers, who can transform a product’s appeal and deliver numerous potential customers overnight.
It’s astonishing just how effective influencer endorsement is. It shows how much customers appreciate having the endless bounty of the internet curated somewhat by somebody sympathetic. Somebody they perceive as belonging to their community.
Image sourced from influencermarketinghub.com
But who do you partner with? Taking our basketball shoes example again, you might choose to partner with:
- Fitness influencers
- Basketball supporters’ clubs
- NBA-associated companies (e.g.,. American Express)
- Local sports teams
Provide valuable content and resources
You have the power to create content that nurtures individual customers into an active community. Whether it be encouraging customers to discuss interesting topics, share ideas, or learn new things, you can unite them with entertaining, engaging, and informative content.
Here are some ideas:
User-generated content (UGC)
Encourage customers to create and share content with your community. They could create a fun video showing your shoes doing what they do in court or tag you in pictures on their socials of their collection.
Write blog posts that resonate with your audience’s interests and encourage them to comment and share. Use content optimization to improve your ranking and get your posts in front of more eyes.
Social media posts
Spark conversations on social media by asking your followers a question. Or, share an interesting news story or fact to motivate engagement in your comments. Don’t forget to respond!
Learning brings people together. Educational e-books or online courses can motivate customers to create communities around their learning experience.
Host events, meetups, or webinars
The more ways your community can get together, the better. This can happen virtually via webinars or proper old-school, everyone-in-the-same-room meetups. The big advantage of physical gatherings is that you can bring along your shoes, and people get to try them out. Have the meetup on a basketball court, and it’s game on!
Implement loyalty programs or rewards.
Every community has its perks. There has to be value in membership, or people won’t bother joining. For some, this value exists just in enjoying a long-term relationship with a group of like-minded souls.
Others, however, want the stuff.
Image sourced from yotpo.com
So, get a rewards scheme going. Prizes for loyal customers can be anything related to your products. New shoes are always nice. Basketball tickets are even better.
So, you’ve got your customer community family fully formed. They have a clear uniting theme, and they love to get together to discuss all related matters.
You then get to reap the benefits of having a group of customers who are totally on your side. You can use them to give feedback on your ideas and new products or even to come up with new ideas themselves.
This community-based marketing relationship is especially useful for crafting taglines. For instance, suppose you came up with the basketball shoe line ‘Put them on your swish list’. Before revealing it to the entire planet, you can run it by a supportive group for their take. And they should tell you never to come out with this kind of thing again. Community counts.