When asked to name some of the strongest brands in the world, which immediately come to mind?
Apple, Disney, Nike, Starbucks, Toyota, Nintendo?
What do all of these brands have in common? They have all cultivated passionate customer communities.
Why Now is the Best Time to Start Community Building
Right now, community building is probably the furthest thing from your mind.
I get it.
Your marketing programs may be paused, your budgets may be cut, your teams may be understaffed and it feels like none of us have landed on the best way to navigate this particular storm.
Yet, times like these present us with a golden opportunity to rethink the way we interact with consumers and better understand their needs. And right now, people need to feel connected.
According to Sprout Social, 91 percent of consumers believe social media can connect people, and 78 percent want brands to use social media to bring them together.
Like any relationship, it takes work, but the mutual rewards can be significant. When customers feel connected to brands, more than half (57 percent) increase their spending with that brand and 76 percent will buy from them over a competitor.
By prioritizing community building, brands can reach people on a more personal level, ultimately strengthening customer trust, inspiring advocacy and establishing deeper loyalties for near-term COVID-19 recovery and long-term brand growth.
Tips for Cultivating a Community that Drive Advocacy
1. Determine what you want to achieve
Advocate communities are more than just a captive audience for you to continually promote your brand. When done right, they’re something that adds value to you and your customers. Before you set out to cultivate a community, you need to set goals with your customers in mind. Why do they love your brand? How do they like to interact? What’s something that they would find valuable? The intersection of your brand’s goals and the answers to these customer-focused questions should be the foundation of your community.
2. Be clear about the community’s purpose
As with any type of brand initiative, you should start with why. No one is going to jump to join your new community if you don’t tell them what it is and why they should be a part of it. Be clear and consistent in your community communications. No matter how you’re inviting people to your community — email, chatbot, social media, etc. — make sure your invitees know what the community’s purpose is, what participation in the community looks like and what they can hope to get out of joining it.
3. Open channels of communication
While social media can often function as an open platform for community building, to cultivate a truly focused and dedicated community, you’ll need to create a specific space for it. For many brands, this means developing a centralized digital destination for people to register or login, giving them the ability to then interact with the brand and other community members within the digital space.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of knowing your customers — especially in today’s noisy and competitive online marketplace. By interacting with customers on a more personal and consistent basis, you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of their wants, needs and preferences. Nurture community conversation and content creation. If they know you’re listening, customers will tell you exactly what they value and seek from your brand relationship.
5. Showcase your community as part of your brand
Once your community is active and thriving, show instead of just telling those customers how much you value them. Publish their content (with their permission) across all your marketing channels, quote them in your newsletters and website, feature them in your social video clips. It’s this type of customer-centric marketing that consumers respond to and that your customer community will be thrilled to participate in. In fact, 51 percent of consumers say they’d be more likely to continue engaging with and/or purchasing from a brand if it shared their photo, video or social post across its marketing.
Turn Your Advocates Into Influencers
Here at Stackla, we’ve created our own version of a community-building tool, called Organic Influencers.
Understanding that passionate advocates are one of the most valuable assets a brand can have, our Organic Influencers tool helps marketers identify the customers who are most passionate about their brands, then enables them to easily create a custom community portal and communicate regularly with customers in the form of customizable creative briefs that can encourage, reward or incentivize your community to participate in the evolution of your brand. And our broader platform allows you to further streamline the permissions, management and distribution of this content alongside all your other branded assets — helping you put your customers at the heart of your marketing.
Right now, budgets are tight, traditional content creation activities are all but suspended and socially distanced consumers are increasingly turning to social media for connection. Brand communities that inspire people, embrace social and continuously connect with them on a human level will be the ones that come out the other side of this crisis with a deeper understanding of their customers needs and a much stronger bond.
People want to support the brands they love, now is the time to give them an opportunity to do so.