Whether you’re an established company or just a start-up, developing an online presence is important in content marketing.
It allows you to expand your reach proactively instead of waiting for customers to come to you. Additionally, it enables you to build your brand and diversify your content using videos, podcasts, and blogs.
One of the top trending and most effective mediums of content marketing is brand community.
Brand community is essential to building brand awareness and connecting small business owners with their target audience. It makes sense given that most people are now online and content marketing is no longer consolidated to a few channels like radio or television.
In fact, 70% of marketers have used brand communities to advertise their products. These participants also rated brand communities as a nine (out of 10) in importance for digital marketing campaigns.
What’s great about a brand community is that it opens up an avenue for storytelling. By allowing customers to share their experiences about the brand and interact with like-minded people, you allow customers to take charge of your brand’s narrative––while indirectly receiving feedback on how to improve your products or services.
Brand communities also give businesses the opportunity to engage directly with their target audience by answering their inquiries online and appealing to their interests via new content.
This makes brand communities a more personal form of content marketing and shows customers that the brand is not all just about sales. It also humanises the brand which makes it more appealing to customers.
If you’re a small business owner, tapping into brand communities can be a cost-effective way to introduce potential new customers to your brand while continuing to engage with your established followers. By committing to building a good brand community, you too can incorporate this into your content marketing strategy and make the most of your online presence.
What is a brand community?
Businesses have taken advantage of content communities by developing their own brand community.
Content communities refer to the social networks where people can post videos, images, music, or other content along with a description. Other users can then search, react, share and comment on the uploaded content. Some examples of popular content community sites include:
- Daily Motion
The goal of a content community is to allow multiple people to share content, interact together, and gain a following of users who have the same interest or purpose. Many of these websites have a comments section to encourage discussion and a ‘subscribe’ or ‘follow’ button to update followers of new content.
Businesses can tap into these content communities by introducing their brand to the groups and showing that they are linked to the group’s shared interest or common goal. In doing so, they open up the opportunity to introduce their brand as something more than just another business, potentially enticing more people to purchase and become loyal to their products.
When there is a strong following for a brand in an online community, a content community can turn into a dedicated brand community.
These brand communities can appear in the form of:
- Social media pages or groups
- Social media hashtags
- Online forums or group discussion threads
- Email or video subscriptions
- Podcast audiences
They often take place on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and can contribute a lot to a brand’s image and marketing efforts.
There are some important steps to follow before you can jump in. It’s not advisable to just join any content community and integrate yourself into their common interest.
To create value and display your brand to the right audience, you should:
- Do thorough research on your target market – You need to know and understand the behaviour and interests of your customer group. Conducting surveys, interviews, and reviewing social media behaviour can help you gain insight into their interests, wants, and needs.
- Identify what kind of content is right for your brand – The material you choose to post needs to be aligned with what you do, you can’t upload just anything and expect people to jump on board. Research and plan what material will best generate customer leads and appeal to a bigger audience. Make sure you develop quality content that will show your capabilities and professionalism.
- Create a content strategy based on the information you have – A good content strategy can help keep you on track with your brand community goals. To create an effective content strategy, you’ll need to have:
- A clear, feasible set of goals
- Information about your competitors
- Knowledge on the mediums to be used for the campaign
- A content calendar
- A monitoring system
After completing these steps, you can start laying the foundations for your own brand community.
3 examples of successful online brand communities
To help you better understand how brand communities work, here are some great examples from well known companies.
1.LEGO IDEAS Community
The LEGO IDEAS Community is the online platform for LEGO builders to share their creations, join competitions, recommend new sets, and vote for the best models. It’s a place to talk about all things LEGO.
Since its creation in 2008, the website has amassed over one million user submissions, with each post having multiple comments and supporters–a testament to the company’s success in brand community building.
According to LEGO Group’s head of community co-creation Peter Espersen, the brand’s ideas were fueled by the customers’ creativity and LEGO passion.
Through personal interviews with their target market, Espersen’s marketing team was not only able to develop new LEGO sets that catered to their customer’s desires, but also (inadvertently) encouraged the creation of brand advocates who are very vocal and passionate about the company’s products.
Peter Espersen said in an interview with The Guardian, “They (marketers) need to start looking and listening to their fans and they need to not be afraid of them. They might be different to the marketers, but usually they are smarter. Marketers need to go out and talk to them, not just online but face-to-face”.
With more and more LEGO enthusiasts emerging, it seems that LEGO IDEAS is only set to grow in the years to come. .
2. Harley Owners’ Group (H.O.G.)
The Harley Davidson’s Owner’s Group (H.O.G.) is Harley Davidson’s official motorcycle riding club.
This brand community allows members to post their riding experiences, receive exclusive benefits like H.O.G. Assist, gain access passes to the Harley Davidson Museum, and stay updated on the latest stories from the brand’s original lifestyle magazine ‘The Enthusiast’.
It uses the group’s collective interest in riding to unite members during events like bike shows and exclusive H.O.G. rallies, establishing itself as a trusted brand for motorcycles and retaining brand recall amongst drivers.
And it’s because of this continuous involvement with the motorcycle riding community that the H.O.G. has amassed over one million members worldwide and is one of the most thriving online communities today.
3. Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community
Sephora already has a major following from online users thanks to their convenient shopping platform and wide selection of hair and makeup products, however, the brand turned their customer service up a notch by introducing their Beauty Insider Community.
This brand community gives makeup enthusiasts access to tutorials, exclusive shop discounts, and a platform to discuss the latest beauty trends. It even encourages members to post photos of their new look to the website’s gallery, and share their lifestyle tips and recommendations in the group forums.
By encouraging this open-minded and helpful atmosphere, the Beauty Insider Community allows its members to not only keep up with new lifestyle and beauty trends, but also instills a sense of love and acceptance within the online community. Those feelings of looking good and belonging to a supportive and uplifting group can go a long way for makeup and beauty patrons.
Why a small business should consider building a brand community
The examples above prove that with research and a better understanding of your target market, any business can build their own brand community. For small businesses in particular, incorporating online communities into your marketing scheme can lead to rewarding results in the long run.
Some benefits that come from building a brand community are:
- A competitive advantage – Having a brand community can help you edge out your competitors who have yet to build a dedicated user connection. This allows you to take advantage of the market and establish yourself as the go-to brand for customers in your industry.
- Improved customer relations – Because brand communities are mostly online, it enables you to easily communicate with your customers and respond to them in real-time. This constant communication also makes for a good seller-to-customer relationship and allows for early rapport to be built.
- Brand loyalty – There’s a sense of trust established once people go from regular customers to brand community members. It can become difficult for them to leave the community if they’ve already become emotionally attached to the brand and other members. Because of this, they not only become loyal supporters, but also brand advocates as they continue to share and engage with you and other members on your online platform.
- Larger customer pool – It’s normal for members to recruit their friends and family to join an online community they love. This widens your customer reach and introduces your small business to potential new customers.
Having a brand community will definitely push your small business in the right direction. To keep that upward momentum going, you’ll need to back your brand up with high quality content marketing.
How content can improve your brand community
Planning and preparing high quality content is key in keeping your brand community members informed and satisfied with your products and services.
One way of maintaining interest is by creating engaging social media posts. To do this, you’ll need to understand your customer preferences and social media behaviour and design effective content accordingly. Once you’ve understood what kind of posts they engage with most, you can replicate that success and grow your presence.
You’ll also need to maintain a strong brand personality. If they’ve made you their top choice, they won’t feel the need to look to other brand communities for support. Be sure to continue to be active and responsive so they continue to feel like they belong and their needs are being met by your brand.
Doing all of these can help you strengthen and improve your brand community awareness and aid in turning your small business into an established and trusted brand in the industry.