- by Alyson Shane
By: Alyson Shane, President
Brand communities are the easiest way to increase trust and familiarity with your brand, increase sales and conversions, and have better conversations with your customers.
Customers are looking for deeper and more meaningful interactions with the businesses they support. This is especially true in light of the last few years when topics like diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and voting with your dollar have become part of the mainstream conversation.
These days, consumers are looking for brands that share their values.
To help you better understand what brand community is, why it’s so important for your business, and how to build a successful one, I’ve put together this guide to help you get started.
What is a brand community?
Let’s clear the air: brand awareness is not the same as a brand community.
A brand community is when people are emotionally invested in buying your products or services, engaging with your content, and actively telling their friends and family about your business.
These people follow everything you do on social media, share your content with their followers, promote your products and services without being asked to, and are “ride or die” fans of your business and what you do.
Unlike brand awareness, which is simply when someone knows about your brand, your brand community is made up of people who have an emotional connection to your brand.
What’s the benefit of building a brand community?
Put simply, a brand community is a powerful tool for growing your business.
According to SmallBizGenius, 56% of customers will stay loyal to a brand they feel “gets them”, which means building a community around your brand can help existing customers feel aligned with your business.
Even better: HubSpot found that 81% of consumers trust the advice of family and friends over businesses, which means if someone is a member of your brand community you’re in a better position to get referral and word-of-mouth business through your existing customers.
Having an active brand community also means that you have a group you can regularly tap into to get feedback on new products or services, share blog content, test new features (if you’re a SaaS business), and use to collect positive testimonials and feedback.
However — a brand community isn’t a one-way street. The key to a successful brand community is to consistently find ways to engage, entertain, and reward your community members.
Let’s talk about how to do that:
How to build a community around your brand
1. Define your brand’s mission, values, and personality
Before you build a community around your brand, you need to know what your brand is. This goes beyond the products and services you sell, and should include:
- What’s your company’s vision?
- Who are your customers, and how do you solve their problems?
- What’s your brand voice, and how does it change in different contexts?
- What do you want your brand to be known for?
If you’re not sure how to define these areas (or if you haven’t updated them in a long time) a digital marketing consultation can help clarify your vision.
2. Don’t try to be everything to everyone
”'By being everything to everyone you're nothing to anyone” — there are tons of variations of this quote, but they all make the same point: leaning into causes or messaging that’s outside of the scope of your brand dilutes our message and makes it harder for people to connect with you.
3. Decide where your content hub will be
Members of your community will need a place to come together to engage with your brand, share information and share their experiences.
Consider your audience’s needs, demographics, preferences, and how they want to interact with your brand and other members. If you’re not sure which is best for your brand community, take a look at a few of these options:
A community forum
Forums are a great way for large communities to talk about shared interests (which may or may not be directly relevant to your brand). A great example of a successful community is Spotify’s community.
Image via Spotify Community
You can see that their home page gives people the option to ask for help and engage with the brand, chat with other users, or engage with the community through polls and posts.
Since Spotify is a huge music streaming company with a global audience, a forum works great as a community hub because the brand can cultivate conversations around playlists, emerging artists, and more, all with their music streaming platform positioned at the center.
There are two ways to create a brand community on social media: by engaging through your profile, or by creating a group.
You can also create communities around a branded hashtag, which is exactly what it sounds like! Branded hashtags are hashtags that are unique, either to your brand or to a specific campaign on social media.
One example is Disney’s #ShareYourEars campaign which was created in collaboration with the Make-A-Wish foundation. Every time someone posted a photo of themselves wearing Mickey Mouse ears with the hashtag #ShareYourEars, Disney donated $5 to the charity.
Image via Instagram
4. Lean into user-generated content (UGC)
Another example of how to build a brand community on social media is to create a generic branded hashtag like A Color Story has done.
They feature photos posted using the branded hashtag #AColorStory on their feed, which builds brand loyalty and helps generate user-generated content (UGC) on their feed as well, which keeps it personal and informal.
Image via Instagram
5. Create high-quality content
Use customer research to create content that your audience will love. Some examples of content you can create include:
- Writing helpful tutorials
- Publishing interesting articles
- Co-creating content with influencers
- Answering customer questions in Q&As (live or pre-recorded)
Encourage your community members to get involved by sharing their opinions and thoughts in the comments section, or by using fun engagement tools like Instagram Story Stickers like polls, “Add Yours” and “Question”.
Creating a space where your community members can find helpful, interesting, and relevant content that creates an emotional connection to your brand is the key to getting them to come back over and over!
6. Lead from the top down
One of the easiest ways to create a community around your brand is for the people at the top (President, CEO, and other leadership) to be actively involved with promoting the brand and its values.
This is especially true for small-to-medium-sized brands where being personable and relatable can play a huge role in differentiating you from the competition. Some ways that leadership can help build a community include:
- Showing up regularly in Stories, Reels, and behind-the-scenes content
- Writing op-eds, post captions, and email newsletters from their own perspectives
- Blogging or publishing content on their own social media channels that aligns with the brand
- Resharing company updates on their own social media profiles
- Volunteering and doing philanthropic work that’s reflective of the brand’s values
Start creating your own brand community today
Engaging with your customers and potential customers makes them feel important to the brand itself. This increases loyalty and trust and fosters positive feelings about your business that can be hard to achieve without a strong community.
Ready to start building a community around your brand? Drop us a line and let’s chat!
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- by Chelsée Curé
By: Chelsée Curé, Branding Specialist
Your brand is not your logo.
Your brand is so much more than that. It’s not what you look like, but rather who you are as an organization.
Think of a brand you love, and come up with three adjectives to describe them. Rarely will those adjectives be entirely visual. Instead, you might think of the quality of the product or service, the way they make you feel, or even the type of client they cater to.
Our goal is to find out who your business is and how we want to be perceived. Then it’s a matter of ensuring that your audience comes up with the same list of adjectives.
Building your brand means building on authenticity.
Brands that stand the test of time tend to have a common thread in that they don’t cater to the whims of what’s ‘hot’ right now, but instead deliver a consistent brand identity that stands the test of time.
This doesn’t mean forging forward with blinders on. Audiences value a brand that is aware of the current times we’re living in. It’s just a matter of finding a way to take a trending topic and make it fit your brand rather than the other way around.
Consider me a self-help guru for your business. Let’s do a deep dive into who you are, what you want to bring to the world and what unique viewpoint you want to share with your industry. Then we use our marketing tools to generate leads and build strong client relationships.
Here are some questions to ask that may help get the ball rolling.
Who are you?
This one might seem simple enough to answer. If you’ve reached the point of needing branding work. You’ve probably hammered that elevator pitch into the ground, but let’s dig a little deeper shall we?
What would make your brand want to get out of bed in the morning? Is it a drive for cutting-edge technology, a passion for improving the lives of customers, or a vision for a greener world?
This business was started for a reason. Let’s make sure we don’t forget it.
Now that we know your ‘why’, let’s talk about your ‘how’.
What words would you use to describe your business? Personify it!
If you were to describe your business as a friend, what kind of person are they?
- Are they a powerhouse that’s driven to succeed?
- Are they warm and friendly?
- Are they better suited for a black-tie event or a backyard barbecue?
- What do they sound like?
- Do they use language that’s witty and fun or are they more professional and prefer to stick to business?
- Are they bright and colourful or do they stick to minimalistic neutrals?
Hopefully by this point, you’ve got an idea of the type of persona you see for your brand and how you want to present it to the world.
Who are they?
They’re out there. They are your customers, your competition, your cheerleaders and your critics. Who are they and what do they want?
Who is your ideal customer and what do you bring to the table that meets their needs? What are their values and priorities and how do they align with yours?
By clearly identifying who the target audience is, we can make sure we create messaging that resonates with them. Are they looking for something bold and engaging, or warm and comforting? Are they urban or rural? Do they prefer brick and mortar or a digital experience? If they’re online, on which platforms are we likely to find them?
It’s possible that you have multiple customers in mind, and that’s okay too. What is important is being aware of who we are trying to reach and what will pack the most punch?
Let’s say you sell light fixtures, you might have residential customers who are designing their home. They’re focused on finding something that reflects their design style and budget. Their needs might be different than that of an industrial client who wants to buy in bulk and whose focus is to keep energy costs down.
The messaging you would use for these two clients may be very different, but it’s important to know who we’re talking to.
Who is your competition? How are you different? Where are their strengths and in what ways can you learn from them?
Conducting a competitive analysis is a great way to gain insight. You might see competitors who have a great product but an inconsistent brand identity and who struggle to stand out. Alternatively, you might find a competitor who’s killing it online, they’ve got great visuals, a strong online presence and little customer retention due to a lack of quality.
If you look at the current landscape of your industry, where are customers congregating and where is there a lapse? How can you set yourself apart from competition while getting a slice of that pie?
Cheerleaders and Critics
Most of us will likely never own a Lamborghini, but we all have an opinion as to whether we would want to. Cheerleaders and critics are those who may not fall into our customer base but who are part of the community. They may also be neither cheering nor criticizing but I appreciate alliteration.
This category casts a wide net. It might include things like media outlets and how current events may affect your brand.
If you plan on having a strong online presence, that means just about anyone can virtually walk into your space. They might not be looking to buy, but how will your brand make them feel?
It’s important to be cognizant of this group as they can easily influence your target audience. We’ve all seen or heard of companies going viral for a clever campaign or being called out for content that was deemed out of touch or inauthentic.
Where do we fit it?
We’re here to help guide you on your business’ journey of self-discovery.
We’ll work with you to answer all the questions asked above. We’ll conduct competitive analysis, market research and find out what your business goals are.
The Holy Grail
Once we’ve established where your business fits among your industry and community. We’ll develop a brand standards guideline. Here are some things to include in the guideline:
- Your brand’s mission, vision, values and history
- Logo usage guidelines, size colour combinations, sizing requirements and more. This includes letterhead, website logo and business card designs
- Typography: what fonts and type sizes to use online and in print
- Your marketing materials colour palette, including colour codes and examples
- Examples of imagery to use (icons, photos, symbols etc)
- Messaging style guide: key messages, tone of voice and communication style. This could include a list of key points to emphasize or words to stay away from
This brand strategy guideline is a work in progress and as we work together and gain further insight, we’ll work to refine it to best fit your needs.
Telling your story
It’s time to tell your story.
We’ve established a strategy to best reach your audience and meet desired goals. Now, we’ll develop campaigns or content strategies that let people know who you are and how you can improve their lives.
We’ll create campaigns to run on the most optimized platforms for your needs. Well track their successes and evolve as we learn what works best for your goals.
Some examples include:
- Social media campaigns
- Blog posts and newsletters
- Digital marketing & e-commerce
- Search, SEO & SEM
What sets Starling Social apart is our desire to keep you in the loop. We provide clients with transparent reporting so they keep their fingers on the pulse and aren’t left with questions.
Our reports include:
- Wins: why we succeeded, what made this strategy work, how can this approach be applied to different areas
- Losses: What missed the mark, what factors contributed to this campaign not doing what we’d hoped
- Next steps: With all the data we’ve gathered, what are the next steps?
If you’re ready to learn more about our branding and visual strategy services, click here to book a free discovery call!