There’s no question about it: die-hard fans and followers are a fantastic asset to any business. Not only are they more likely to engage with your brand and buy from you on a consistent basis, but they’re also the ones most likely to evangelize and spread the word about your brand to their friends, family, and even the cashier at their local 7/11.
However, the terminology can be misleading. Being a “fan” doesn’t specify how dedicated they are — they could be someone who loves the slick ads you put out but barely knows anything about your business model or your brand values. That’s why your real goal should be to build a community where your true fans and followers can come together.
When fans are part of your community, their level of commitment and investment will surge, and they’ll provide you with unparalleled knowledge into what your customer base wants and demands. In fact, a study from Innsbruck University School of Management found that 64 percent of companies felt brand communities improved their decision-making. So, let’s look at how you can build a community for your brand!
What Type of Brand Community Should I Build?
Your brand community may be based on a particular product you sell, or it may be based on a certain shared interest that your brand represents. For example, Nike sells athletic shoes and attire, but promotes a “just do it” mindset and athletic lifestyle that resonates with its customer base. Beyond that, Nike offers something called Nike Plus that draws the customers who are truly committed to Nike’s brand by offering extra value — in this case, encouraging them to get more involved through exclusive apps, products, and personalized attention.
The key is to have a brand that stands for something. Being middle of the road will make you and your brand invisible, so establish a voice and demonstrate how you’re different. How do your products and services deliver value in a way that your competitors don’t?
Before you build a brand community, you have to decide a few things:
- What’s the core purpose?
- How exclusive will it be?
- How much involvement will it demand?
Let’s start with the core purpose. Just like with marketing or entrepreneurship in general, you can’t try to build a community that attempts to do everything for everyone. You need to decide if it’s primarily about evangelism, market insight, decision-making, an income stream, or some other end goal. This in turn will guide which format you use and how you approach the formation of a community.
For instance, if you want your most devoted fans in one place to maximize revenues, you might put the community behind a pretty hefty paywall and qualify potential members for membership. This exclusive community might be billed as an “Insider’s Circle,” a “Members-only forum,” or a “Platinum Club.” In a community like this, you might also require a certain level of engagement, like attending a weekly phone call.
In the consumer realm, you could create a fan club as a brand community. This may be a free or paid membership, but it draws together everyone who identifies as fans of your brand. Here, you may decide the core purpose of the fan club is to gain insight into what your fans want so you can make informed decisions about the next product or service you release.
Which Formats Should I Use For my Brand Community?
By all means, use social media, email, and other digital technologies to connect with your audience. The main benefit of digital media is the sheer scale you can take advantage of, and the way you can automate the process. Go for a presence on your own website, Facebook private groups, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and other platforms like Slack that cater to your audience and where they naturally congregate.
On the other hand, you’ll find it difficult to achieve the same level of engagement and commitment from online users as you’ll get from people you pay personalized attention to. Establish real-life events or travel to different places to engage with fans in person. Done in conjunction with social media, this is a powerful way to build a community.
Don’t get discouraged if it’s slow going at first. It can take time, but with consistent action and conscious effort on your part, the momentum will build. Before long, you’ll have a community of fans and followers with a true passion for your brand!