Today’s generation of tech-savvy consumers is less receptive to traditional methods of advertising and marketing. In fact, 96% of Americans believe brand advertising is done to intentionally mislead. Customers want more than a transactional relationship – they want to be part of something bigger.
The times have changed. Today, brand building isn’t about broadcasting your brand to the customer. Instead of shouting into the void why their product is the best, leading brands now build a brand identity and community through the creativity of their customers.
With the consumer shift toward values like transparency, social responsibility, and customer focus, the rise of community-driven brands makes sense. A consumer showing support for a brand is now a representation of themselves or an extension of who they are as a person.
So, how do you tap into that market with your brand? By creating something human.
The Human Connection in Community-Driven Brands
Brands have become more adaptable and focused on telling the human story behind the logo. With that comes human connections, especially with the rise of social media and the availability of information.
What is a Community-Driven Brand?
While a “community-driven brand” can incorporate many elements, it generally revolves around:
- Customers as members of a group
- Members creating value for other members
- Members driving the marketing and sales efforts
Keep in mind that this isn’t limited to niche brands or industries — a community-driven brand can have a community built around a product or as its product.
Benefits of Building a Community Around a Brand
Modern digital lifestyle has consumers yearning for more authentic and relatable interactions and camaraderie with like-minded individuals. Building community gives customers a chance to be seen and heard by your brand and each other in a way that both makes them feel appreciated and increases their confidence to purchase from you.
Humans are social creatures, and branding is all about telling the story and sharing in the community. From the business side, building a community can boost a company’s growth. When people are invested in a brand’s community and what it represents, they return to continue that experience.
There’s never been a better time to invest in community. Following the isolation of the pandemic and the increasing distance between people as they forgo in-person interactions for virtual ones, people are seeking community more than ever.
How to Build Community Around Your Brand
Focus on Long-Term Results
Brand campaigns have always been about the long term, but building community is even more about patience and time. It can take a while to gain traction, but taking your time builds an authentic, long-lasting connection between your brand and your customers.
Even with paid marketing, there’s no fast-track to community. The best community brands seek to become a valuable addition and trusted resource in their customers’ lives, and that won’t happen overnight. Social media and email marketing are core to the long game; consistently showing up to engage with your fans and provide them with opportunities to get involved with your brand on the channels they already spend time on.
Start from the Inside
If you don’t have a sense of community internally, you won’t be able to build it with customers. Your team should have a clear vision of your brand as well as well-defined values and a positive company culture.
Don’t underestimate the power of your employees as brand advocates, either. When you empower your employees to promote your brand, you gain an edge over the competition with both customers and talent.
Delta frequently shares stories and content on Instagram from its own team members to humanize the brand while fostering community through online interaction.
Encourage your employees to advocate on the behalf of your brand. Your employees should have the tools and training to spread the word about your brand through social media and events.
Adopt a Social Cause
In addition to authentic, human experiences, consumers are seeking brands that have a sense of social responsibility. Whether that’s through the product or service directly, like an eco-friendly skincare line or ethical clothing line, or through advocating and giving to a cause, customers want to be a part of it.
These customers are already part of a community by advocating for a cause, so you can build a community that invites them to share that passion with like-minded people. Reaching eco-friendly customers is a valuable way to show your brand’s dedication to the environment and attract a like-minded, supportive audience.
Cotopaxi’s #GearForGood initiative aims to reduce the company’s global footprint while encouraging customers to share their support for a sustainable lifestyle.
Make Use of User-Generated Content (UGC)
Personalized marketing efforts have an edge, but nothing beats real-life experiences and connections for fostering trust in people. User-generated content has incredible reach on social media and encourages audience engagement, but it also serves as relatable, valuable content across other marketing channels like your site’s product pages or email newsletters. Nothing gives your customers more incentive to stay loyal to your brand more than seeing other people like them actively sharing their support for you online.
Studies indicate that 84 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations more than any other type of advertising. Not surprising, since we know word-of-mouth marketing is and always will be one of the most powerful marketing efforts.
Leading community-driven brands utilize a CRM platform like Pixlee to pull in UGC from social channels and upload it directly onto their sites. Pixlee lets you manage and measure the impact of high-quality UGC across all of your marketing channels, including scheduled social posts, shoppable on-site galleries, email displays, and more. Users are now able to see how a product fits into their lives in a tangible way.
Custom map brand Mapiful showcases Pixlee-powered UGC from its community on product pages as well as an on-site inspiration gallery. Site visitors can filter this gallery based on a variety of elements and shop directly from other customers’ social posts.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to UGC; Radio Flyer used community content to drive a 7x increase in conversion, and Jones Soda created an on-site voting gallery of UGC for its soda bottle labels. Check out some of the places UGC can be shared beyond social media to learn more about the power of this type of content in your overall community strategy.
Run a Social Media Contest
Contests and giveaways are already excellent ways to boost engagement and expand your community, but running a user-generated content contest gives you valuable customer content that can be used in marketing campaigns. Also, winners will likely post their content on their own social media profile, which gets you in front of even more people. Be sure to offer a prize, such as exclusive offers, discounts, or a free sample to incentivize users.
Location tracking brand Tile’s summer giveaway contest encouraged users to share how they used their Tiles in everyday life through posting and tagging the brand on social media. Tile then shared this UGC in a Pixlee-powered landing page gallery to promote more entries and brand awareness.
Share Value Through Blogs and Newsletters
Blogs and newsletters build community naturally as your customers seek information about their pain points or your products. Come up with educational content ideas to help your customers solve their problems or learn to use your products. For a newsletter, you can build a subscriber list and offer a deep dive into a topic once a month or a few times a month.
The general rules of content marketing apply here — always keep it valuable and customer-focused. You have an opportunity to share user-generated content here, too. You could do a feature blog post or in-depth newsletter about a customer success story involving your product. Maybe a customer brought home a rescue in your brand’s collar and leash, or maybe your virtual diet and fitness coaching helped a customer lose a life-changing amount of weight and gain self-confidence.
Partner With Influencers or Brand Ambassadors
The creator economy is on the rise as more people pursue content creation as a full-time career and marketers recognize the impact of influencers on consumer behavior. Partnering with larger-scale influencers, micro-influencers, or dedicated brand ambassadors through an ecommerce referral program all position your brand to reach new online communities on social media. Start by researching leaders in your industry with loyal followings online, or look within your existing customer base for passionate individuals who can become paid advocates.
While managing influencers in a spreadsheet is doable, investing in an influencer marketing platform to manage campaigns and influencer content can be a good move for brands looking to partner with multiple creators at a time. Pixlee for Creators allows you to discover willing and tech-savvy creators in your brand’s niche, and manage campaigns from start to finish in-platform.
Babyletto uses Pixlee to collect, publish, and track the success of influencer content like this post by @theoliviajordan featuring the brand’s recliner.
Integrate Community Building into Your Marketing Strategy
Building a community is one of the biggest marketing trends of the past few years, and it’s not about to slow down. Many brands fail when they try to control the narrative or develop social channels without the underlying goal. Community must be integrated into your long-term strategy.
More and more, consumers are choosing brands that reflect their personal identity and the community they’re part of. If you can develop a strong community of customers, you’ll have a huge group of brand advocates that will improve the brand’s bottom line.
Author: Patrick Smith
With ideas for leading brands, Patrick solves real-world business problems for enterprise organizations, startups, and everything in between. Prior to C2 Creative, Patrick developed marketing campaigns at several leading advertising agencies and hybrid digital organizations. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from Illinois State University.