A new brand or an already established brand that wants to increase its reach in the industry will, at one point, decide to invest in community-based marketing by creating or expanding its community first.
Community-based marketing is not a new marketing strategy, and it's been out there for quite some time.
What is Community-Based Marketing?
When someone talks about community-based marketing, they're talking about marketing strategies and plans based on the fact that humans themselves are social beings. Community-based marketing is based on and revolves around a brand's direct contact with its community, also known as its ideal audience that stems from the buyer personas created at the very beginning of the brand itself.
Direct contact can change the audience's behavior to one that could be more favorable for a brand's conversion and goals.
This type of direct contact is not only an excellent hack for social media engagement. Community-based marketing can ensure success in the following core aspects of marketing:
Commitment. The more your audience commits to your brand, through competitions, social shares, and other engaging activities, the more likely your brand's values and tone will influence them.
Movement. The more committed your target audience is, the better the likelihood of creating a social norm out of your brand's values and interaction, thus influencing their friends' and relatives' opinions, acting as brand ambassadors.
Communication. This can't happen without studying your audience and seeing how it interacts with your competitors' suggestions and messages, as well as yours.
Incentives. It's a well-known fact that positive affirmations can boost behavioral change and engagement. This is where incentives come in. Make it big and bold to make sure your brand will attract all of the positive attention that will lead to favorable actions.
The four reasons above are why community-based marketing is essential and a great marketing tool to unlock patterns in consumer behavior that could boost your overall success.
Community-based marketing may sound like a recipe for success, however, with all marketing tactics and strategies, you will need to conduct thorough research and answer the following questions:
Is community-based marketing a good fit for your brand?
Is community-based marketing a good fit for your audience?
Do the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to community-based marketing for your brand?
Is Community-Based Marketing a Good Fit for You?
As all marketers know, there is no "one-size-fits-all" when it comes to marketing actions. So, there is a possibility that your brand isn't a good fit for community-based marketing.
Community-based marketing can be beneficial for brands that are always on their toes and continuously release new products, updates, offers, and benefits.
That way, they can keep their audience on their toes and always give them something to be looking forward to.
This type of engagement and the constant updates can help boost a brand's attempts to go viral, but it's not just that.
It can also help boost customer experience. After all, a brand that constantly re-invents and improves its products is a brand that cares for the audience.
Is Your Audience Ready?
This question is a tricky one, and it will take some time for marketers to answer it. Mainly because there are too many factors in this question, to make a "yes" or "no" answer be enough.
A definitive answer lies in the brand's data and analytics. By monitoring those and investing in some big data and analytics software, marketers and brands can distinguish patterns in a user's behavior.
These patterns are all a brand needs to answer the question above. Marketers and analysts will need to look for audience members who seem to be loyal and like to interact with their brand. These are the people that will recommend your brand to their peers and bring you some much-needed organic traffic.
Make sure to grow that audience before deciding to put time and resources into creating a community-based marketing scheme.
What Are the Benefits and Common Challenges?
Again, not an easy question to answer, and the definitive answer lies in a brand's data and analytics.
However, some benefits and challenges are to be expected for most brands that want to delve into this type of marketing.
At first glance, community-based marketing can improve customer experience, as mentioned above, and minimize customer churn. There are several reasons behind that, but the main one is that marketers who engage with their audience can better understand a customer's pain points, complaints, incentives they'd like to see, and the reasons they'd promote the brand to their social circle.
If we take a more in-depth look, we will see that community-based marketing can create the image of a brand that is authentic and cares about its prospects and existing customers. Community-based marketing can rely heavily on customer surveys and User-Generated Content (UGC). Showing appreciation for those two elements can result in:
More loyalty. Brands can implement loyalty programs and create a wider social circle through existing customers, who will be willing and happy to communicate with the brand's posts.
More relevance. More engagement provides more data and excellent personalization opportunities.
Organic growth, as a result of customers sharing their good experience with others and willingly turning into brand ambassadors.
The graph below explains the above points perfectly:
Of course, no marketing strategy comes with zero challenges, so let's take a look at those.
Building a community and using it to market your products may sound like the oldest marketing trick. It surely is one of the oldest ones; however, it's not easy to do.
Since communities consist of real people, brands need to have community managers who are highly perceptive and can handle negative reviews in a calm and collected manner that will help the brand understand the reasons behind said reviews.
Additionally, community managers need to be able to identify a customer's pain points and continuously change their approach but without losing the brand's tone. This part, specifically, needs to be done by marketers who don't expect immediate results.
After all, community-based marketing can and needs to build a long-term relationship of trust between the brand and the prospect.
Lastly, community-based marketing requires an awful lot of commitment, sometimes to the extent that marketers will need to "forget" about some part of their marketing plan.
Gathering information through online communities is easy and quick, but it also requires constant attention. However, if you do it right, you can lead them further down the digital marketing funnel and boost your brand's conversion and bottom line.
Community-Based Marketing Strategies
There is no marketing plan without any marketing strategies, and community-based marketing is no exception.
But what are these strategies? More importantly, how can they help your marketing efforts flourish?
Do Your Research
This piece of advice is valid for every marketing strategy and every step of the way. Community-based marketing is, of course, no exception.
Marketers will need to gather data, research their competitors' online communities, create questionnaires, engage and study their findings before being sure they can define what a community is and how they can handle their own.
To define what a community is, brands and marketers will need to know the following things:
What problem does their product or service solve?
What values do they share with their competitors?
How can they market those values to attract like-minded audiences?
The answers to those questions stem from some key factors that influence the ways online communities operate.
Members of those communities are people with common interests, ideas, who act and interact in a certain way, both between themselves and with brands. Finally, they are those who feel a need to give back to their community.
Suppose a product or a service addresses specific pain points, and the brand behind those uses a tone of voice that resonates with some members of an online community. In that case, there is a high chance that all of the members will, eventually, be interested in that product or service.
Doing some thorough research, finding the ideal target audience and marketing to them, and, in the end, hijacking their community and creating your own will boost your marketing efforts.
Be a Member of Said Communities
There is no way marketers or brands can hijack any online community and slowly build their own if they're not active members of said community.
This is where marketers come in. As a marketer, you'll need to first act as a prospect if you want to access all of the benefits community-based marketing has to offer.
Be an active member. Show an interest in participating, asking questions, see what your prospects are passionate about, and ask them why. Contribute any way you can.
The best example for that one would be LinkedIn and Medium. Both websites are excellent for marketers who would like to build a brand through online communities and contributions.
As a marketer, your best shot would be to publish content that will be educational and informative. After all, community-based marketing is not about the hard sell.
By doing so, you will reach audiences interested in what you have to say and would love to hear more for you, establishing your brand's name as a niche authority.
Engage With Prospects
"What would you like to see in our next post?", "Do you have any questions on how to do XYZ better?", "Send us pictures using our product".
All of the above are statements that make you, as a marketer - and of course, the brand itself - actively communicate with your audience and ask for their contribution.
For example, the beauty brand Frank Body is heavily invested in its community and makes sure to interact with it at any given time. From day one, this brand created the branded hashtag #thefrankeffect and encouraged prospects to share their experiences with the brand.
But the brand didn't stop at that. It made sure to boost engagement and get involved in its community, by engaging with the UGC coming its way:
This kind of engagement shows a brand that wants and needs to be a part of the community first, and then sell products or services. By doing so, brands build trust between themselves and their prospects.
And who doesn't want to be a brand ambassador and feel like their opinion is all that matters when it comes to their favorite brand?
Influencer Marketing and Brand Ambassadors
Building an online community that will attract more people and will become well-known relies heavily on word-of-mouth marketing.
Word-of-mouth is probably the oldest form of marketing, sales, engagement, and so on, as it relies on one basic psychological principle: Social proof.
If word of mouth can prove that your brand, product, service, anything you need to promote, is valuable and useful, more and more people will want to join your community. Marketers can achieve this by implementing influencers and brand ambassadors.
Influencers can create and shape opinions within their community or niche and push your brand's name to make prospects think highly of your brand and product.
Influencer marketing also creates cross-promotion opportunities. For example, let's assume that you need to create more engagement in your Instagram community. You can collaborate with an Instagram influencer and create a competition or a giveaway.
Incentivize the offer by asking people to tag their friends for more chances to win. And finally, create content that won't be there to sell, but will be there to inform, please and engage.
For this strategy, your main goal is to positively present your brand to the social circles of trusted people. By having their audience engage with your product or service, you'll make them feel like they're a part of your community already.
Finally, by incentivizing the offer, you turn those prospects into brand ambassadors, who will bring in more prospects in an effortless, organic way.
Be Mindful of Your Content
Last but definitely not least, in our bag of tricks comes content. All marketers swear by it and call it "The King". And sure enough, it is. But how can community-based marketing implement it in a way that will be useful and valuable to their audience?
Create shareable and valuable content that will be engaging and informative. Through this type of material, a brand can establish authority. Primarily if the content aims to educate and not sell, as mentioned before.
Informative, impactful content generates more shares, more engagement, and, finally, more people that will be researching the brand's name and website.
However, there is a catch to that. You'll need to "train" your audience to expect your content during specific time intervals - once a week, bi-weekly, two times a week, etc. - if you want to boost engagement and give them something to talk about and share.
By doing so, you'll manage to have a better understanding of your target audience as well, seeing as you'll be able to experience the times and days they're free and more invested in the communities they frequent, first-hand.
Communities are "organisms" that can be created naturally or formed through a brand's marketing actions. Brands and marketers need to nurture those communities and develop a brand tone and values that will resonate with the target audience.
Brands will need to check their data and be very thorough when deciding the platform on which they'll base their community. It all depends on their demographics and the platform their core audience frequents - social media platforms, forums, TikTok, etc.
Consistency is key to every marketing aspect; therefore, it's essential to show that kind of "face" to your online community. Your brand's tone will determine your marketing platform.
Are you a storyteller? A problem-solver? Set the tone and make sure to be consistent when answering to your prospects and creating content. This consistency will build trust, and trust builds engagement.
Lastly, always remember that you need to A/B test everything. A/B testing and collecting feedback are powerful allies to all marketers globally.
By gathering feedback, a brand can develop and accordingly adjust its tones and values and present them in a way that will make prospects eager to be associated with it.