Consumers today have the freedom to engage with the brands, ads and social accounts that appeal to them. If they’re interested in a brand’s products and services, they’ll pursue interaction, giving businesses a chance to engage them and build a loyal, long-standing relationship.
To build authentic relationships with your target audience, consider creating a custom community where customers can come for unique, informative and fun interactions. Creating a community around your brand will help you build your audience, generate more sales leads and grow your business.
We’ll explain ways to build a brand community and explore the benefits of strong brand ties and customer relationships.
Did you know? Your brand name helps convey your identity to customers. To create an effective brand name, aim for simplicity, ensure no one else is using it and consider your business’s future growth.
How to build a brand community
Building a community and following will drastically improve your ability to convert leads into customers successfully. Your loyal fans will welcome new products and events and support your efforts. A community increases brand intimacy, creating strong emotional connections, customer loyalty and positive customer reviews.
Here are seven ways to foster a brand community online and offline.
1. Create a Facebook group to build a brand community.
Creating a Facebook group for your brand is an excellent way to build strong relationships with your audience, increase engagement and market your products and services.
Start group discussions to see precisely what your audience is looking for and what issues they’re trying to solve and then offer valuable advice. Your members will feel like they’re part of an exclusive group where they can find a wealth of information.
If you bring together members with similar goals and interests, engagement will be high. You’ll have many people participating in conversations, sharing opinions and tips and creating a group atmosphere that draws followers daily.
Tip: Run Facebook Live Q&A sessions to interact with your community and humanize your brand.
2. Send newsletters to build a brand community.
Hopefully, you’ve been building your email list because sending email newsletters is a highly effective way to build relationships and create a community around your brand. Use newsletters to share your brand’s story, offer exclusive content and build stronger customer bonds.
If you provide your audience with entertaining and valuable content in a monthly newsletter, they’ll be counting the days until the next one arrives in their inbox.
3. Build authority online to build a brand community.
If you want your business to be influential, you must boost online awareness of your brand. Instead of searching for new customers, prospects will seek you out if you’re an industry authority.
Set yourself up as an expert by sharing your knowledge through blog posts, creating a brand YouTube channel and making knowledgeable social media posts.
Being an authority in your industry isn’t about your follower count —it’s about trust. You’ll gain people’s trust if you provide valuable information that helps them solve an issue or teaches them how to do something. Your community will be full of loyal followers who respect your opinions, advice and content.
4. Network face-to-face to build a brand community.
Face-to-face networking is another effective way to build a community for your brand. Make connections with people in real life by attending conferences, workshops and meetups. Networking has many benefits, including raising your profile, building confidence and forming real-life friendships.
The Meetup app is a great way to organize meetups in your city with other professionals. You can find a local meetup related to your industry or create your own meetup and invite your target audience.
When we meet someone face-to-face, we feel like we know them better. If you allow others to get to know the real you, you can build a trustworthy personal brand and form a community of like-minded people you can comfortably reach out to in the future.
5. Host events to build a brand community.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, host events that interest your customers. They can be educational, such as lectures, classes and seminars. You can also host parties or even getaways.
For example, Williams Sonoma holds in-store events like cookbook launch parties, book signings, cooking classes, wedding registry events and holiday-themed events. Every year, resort company Sandals hosts a multi-day event inviting bloggers and their families to vacation for free.
In-person events provide value to customers and allow your staff to interact with them one-on-one without the pressure of trying to sell them something. These personal connections strengthen the emotional connection these customers have to your brand.
6. Encourage UGC to build a brand community.
User-generated content (UGC) includes photos, videos and written information your customers contribute. Reviews are one kind of UGC, but when customers enhance their reviews with photos and videos, they become even more powerful. When Amazon asks customers to answer other customers’ questions about a product, that’s also an example of UGC.
UGC helps your brand in multiple ways:
- UGC is a highly credible marketing form because it comes directly from customers.
- UGC shows your product being used, helping prospective customers imagine themselves using it too.
- UGC makes contributing customers feel like they’re part of a community and that their contributions are valued.
- UGC is free, saving marketing budget funds for other ventures.
Ask customers to submit photos and videos using products, and then feature what they share in your newsletter, social media accounts and website. You can also make it even more fun by having a viral contest on an item’s most creative use or new product ideas. Lays did this by soliciting customer ideas for new chip flavors and bag designs in its “Do Us a Flavor” campaign.
Bottom Line: You can also build brand trust with marketing videos that tell your brand’s story, highlight customer testimonials and showcase your industry.
7. Have a loyalty program with a VIP element to build a brand community.
Customers like getting rewards for purchasing, so ensure you have a loyalty program in place. A loyalty program gamifies shopping, encouraging customers to buy more to get rewards or move to the next level. Loyalty programs also make customers feel appreciated and part of a community.
Most businesses have some customers responsible for an outsized portion of their revenue. These “super customers” should be treated with more care and given more privileges because of their importance to your business. Make them feel especially valued with exclusive deals, early access to new products and invitations to special events.
What are the benefits of building a strong brand community?
The benefits of a strong brand community are endless. Building a brand community creates an organic ecosystem that you can leverage in several different ways, including the following:
- A brand community creates ready-made buyers: If you create enough demand within your community, anytime you drop a new product or service, you’ll have a built-in customer base eager to buy.
- A brand community creates emotional connections: Customers who feel like a valued part of a community are more likely to buy and recommend you to others.
- A brand community increases brand loyalty: When buying from you and being part of your community becomes part of a customer’s identity, leaving you for the competition becomes an impossibility (think iPhone users).
- A brand community provides easy market intelligence: A market research plan is more straightforward with a brand community because you have an organic way to connect with customers and determine their needs, feedback and pain points.
- A brand community fosters customer retention: Fostering a strong community builds a sense of trust with your audience that increases the potential for long-term customer retention.
- A brand community can improve your reputation: A brand community is a smart way to set yourself apart from the competition and brand yourself as a company that cares about building relationships and contributing to the community. Your community can also help protect your brand reputation if you suffer unwarranted criticism.
Examples of successful brand community strategies
LEGO is a surprising example of a company that has built a thriving brand community. By creating sites like LEGO Ideas and LUGNET, LEGO has cultivated a system of connecting to its customers that builds engagement and collects valuable customer feedback:
- LEGO Ideas: LEGO Ideas is a site where enthusiasts can vote on their favorite potential LEGO designs. The projects with the most votes end up going to market. It’s a clever way to validate ideas and make customers feel more connected to the development process.
- LUGNET: LUGNET is an online message board where hardcore LEGO fans can chat and exchange ideas. Although it’s an unofficial fan-generated site, LEGO has been vocal about collecting insights from fan engagement and using it to influence new products. This is an innovative, cost-effective way to acknowledge fans of the brand and show that their feedback is valued.
Other brand community examples include the following:
- Sephora Beauty Insider: Sephora Beauty Insider started as a loyalty program. However, the beauty retailer doubled down by creating its own online community where avid customers can upload photos, share beauty tips and help each other with beauty-related challenges. It has specific groups within the community based on topic and makes it easy for members to write and read reviews within the community. Today, it boasts over 5.5 million members.
- Rust-Oleum: Rust-Oleum has a passionate brand community around its line of protective paint and coverings. The company gives customers a forum to share details about their latest do-it-yourself projects, get feedback from other members and get tips when they encounter problems. It features interviews with its most dedicated customers along with photos, showing it cares about its customers.
Your community is an invaluable resource
Adding brand community-building tactics to your marketing plan will help create a thriving ecosystem of loyal customers. Remember to remain professional in your content and interactions so you don’t appear “spammy.” Creating value for your customers should be the focus. Your community may even yield brand ambassadors and a brand advocacy program that will serve you for years to come.