See some strategies with actionable steps to build and maintain a community of fans.
Have you ever wondered how other small businesses manage to grow so fast? How do they get people to fall in love with their brand and buy from them over and over again?
Well, if you look closely, you'll find a group of passionate followers behind those brands. According to studies, having a branded community can help grow a business in many ways, including reduced customer support costs by up to 25 percent, increased customer retention, and feedback on new ideas and products.
Building a community may just be the missing key to your brand's success.
Why every brand needs a community
Behind every successful brand, there's a group of loyal customers. Take Apple, for example. Despite what kind of product it comes up with, there will always be people willing to camp outside Apple stores for 10 days straight to get their hands on the new Apple device before everyone else.
It's not because Apple products are better, but because Apple built a community of passionate followers who love to talk about the brand. Today, most people talk about their iPhone as part of their identity. It's this community of followers that made Apple a successful brand.
Building a community for a brand is about providing a platform for your customers and loyal followers to talk about your products and spread their ideas. It's also where you can connect with your customers and receive feedback. Mainly, it's about building authority.
You don't have to be a billion-dollar company to have a community. In fact, every brand should have one. As author and master marketer Seth Godin says, you only need 1,000 true fans to build a tribe around your brand.
Here's how you can start and grow your own tribe.
1. Plan how you'll empower your customers.
A branded community is not a place for you to constantly promote your products. The communities that thrive are the ones that provide a platform for the fans and customers to connect with each other, ask questions, solve problems, and share their ideas.
So, first you should ask yourself, how will you use your community to empower your customers? For example, Lego uses its brand community to encourage its customers and fans to share their ideas for new Lego sets and often reward them by hosting contests.
Before you create your community, be sure to have a clear mission of how you'll use it to engage with your customers.
2. Choose the right platform.
Almost all of the most popular brands have their own self-hosted community websites. However, as a small business, you can use social media platforms to provide a more convenient way to let your customers join your community.
The key is to choose the platform best suited for your audience. For example, you can use Facebook groups to create a community for your paid customers and your Facebook page to advertise to everyone. This creates an exclusive community for your customers and a place where they can communicate with each other and share best practices.
You don't necessarily have to rely on social media platforms to build a community. Growing an engaging email list is also a great way to cultivate a loyal brand following.
3. Deliver value and engage with your members.
Why should your customers or fans join your community? What value do you bring them through the community?
Make sure to give your audience a reason to join your community. You can share tips and offer exclusive discounts. Or you can let customers take control and use your community to have their own discussions about your brand.
For example, H&R Block used Facebook and Twitter communities to provide its customers with immediate access to a tax professional through a special social media campaign. This helped the company generate over 1.5 million unique visitors and a 15 percent lift in business.
4. Reward the most loyal members.
A brand community will certainly help boost customer retention. However, the success of your community will depend on you maintaining an active presence and entertaining your audience. Rewarding those who regularly engage with your brand is a great way to show your customers how much you value their loyalty and membership in your community.
Running giveaway campaigns and giving out coupon codes to renew subscriptions at a discounted price are great ways to reward your customers. However, even a simple gesture like mentioning a user in one of your posts and recognizing or acknowledging their ideas is more than enough to make their day.
A brand community requires a lot of work, but it will also bring you more rewards. The key is to interact with your group and value them for being your fans.
Once your community becomes truly engaged with your brand, they will promote your brand and products by themselves to bring in more people and sales, completing the last cycle of the inbound marketing process.