On paper things always look better. On paper you are a creative, engaging brand that should have a vibrant, active community. In reality, your community is dull, bland, and boring. So what gives?
When there is a disconnect between how you and your customers view your brand, the community suffers. Negative feelings do not create a passionate, vibrant customer base. It’s time to make some changes and reinvigorate the community.
Where to Begin?
Business and brand consultant Violeta Nedkova suggests starting by asking yourself “what do I want my brand to be?” Once you have that answer, look at the way your brand looks and feels. Are they the same or different?
Odds are, if your community is languishing, they are different.
What is more valuable? One community member who loves and champions your brand or one hundred passive members who lurk but stay silent? Having a large community is great, but the numbers can be misleading.
Red Bull is a brand that has created a vibrant and active community of brand champions. Their Facebook page ranks among one of the top branded pages in the world. According to Contently, a content agency, Red Bull has built a large and engaged community be giving their fans what they want and keeping their messages simple and consistent.
Another great example of community building comes from Harley-Davidson. The motorcycle company has long since established itself as a strong community brand, owing to the knowledge that their customers are loyal enthusiasts of the motorcycle culture.
Harley was named as a top 10 brand community in large part to their long standing efforts to promote themselves as not only a product, but a way of life. There are over one million impassioned Harley fans in their “owners group” who serve as passionate brand ambassadors worldwide. Harley supports and encourages this passion and it works wonders for them.
How to get there?
Harley-Davidson might be the one motorcycle manufacturer that everyone on the planet can name and it’s hard to watch a sporting event without seeing Red Bull. These brands are huge but they didn’t start off that way because brands never do.
Both brands grew by staying true to their mission and encouraging fans to adopt or adapt to their message. Harley-Davidson has spent decades fostering the notion of Harley not just as a motorcycle but a way of life and their fans live that truth.
Red Bull knew their customers were largely young, active, sports fans. Their “gives you wings” slogan is a perfect fit for images of extreme athletes launching off a half pipe and flying through the air.
One thing these brands have in common is that neither of them are content with being “just a motorcycle” or “just an energy drink.” According to Hootsuite a key component of community building is to create something bigger than your product.
In other words, focus on:
- Building on the emotions and values of your audience
- Fostering a sense of community that goes beyond a shared interest in your product
- Showing care and activity towards a goal that embodies your shared values
Your community comes together because of your product or service, but their reach and values will extend beyond simply enjoying a motorcycle ride or an energy drink. Both companies are actively engaged in outside activities that have little, if anything, to do with bikes or beverages.
As a creative brand you should have your own content to lean on, however don’t neglect your community’s own. Source content in the form of images, stories, videos, or testimonials/experiences from your community.
This not only gets your community involved, it helps keep your content flowing.
Acknowledge and Reward
It is likewise important to recognize and reward members who stand out and show the highest levels of commitment to the brand. For many users, simply being acknowledged is a great way to start.
Further ways to reward members:
- Access to enhanced or members-only content
- Special badges or titles in the community
- Physical gifts (t-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, etc)
Rewarding super-users shows your community that you care about them and their experiences. It helps foster that sense of community you’re aiming for and encourages others in the community to come forward and share their own stories.
Community building does not happen overnight. It is a lengthy process that requires time, attention, and encouragement to grow into the vibrant, supportive communities such as a Red Bull or Harley-Davidson. The success, however, is not measured solely in the size or reach of your membership, but in the activities of your supporters.
Passionate community members reward brands by becoming brand champions. They support your company with their purchases, actively promote your products, and even provide technical support and customer service on your behalf. They may even come to your defense when disgruntled customers call you out.