People (especially younger people) want to show love for the brands they buy from and this can often be executed through engaging with these fave brands on social media: following, reposting, liking, commenting, etc. Many people don’t just want to buy things, they are looking for a sense of community and are very choosy about how they spend their time and money. The best brands are filling voids in their customers’ lives from a product or service standpoint… and strengthening that relationship by also adding additional value to build community. This brand then becomes a friend, trusted resource and recipient of loyalty. That’s where the magic happens, we say: when a brand becomes a trusted pal and further, a mainstay in the buyer’s life.
Building a community is a long game, but creates an authentic connection between brands and people. It allows for a strong qualitative relationship to be built instead of one that is strictly transactional. We see people returning to buy products where they have a special connection with the company all the time. These more meaningful connections yield return visits to restaurants, increased WOM/buzz, and ongoing/recurring sales.
Here are some key ways we’ve found success in building community around brands:
EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE.
- I went to the opening night of a restaurant and received a not-so-great sandwich. I was cool with it, I knew it was their first night and things can get weird! The manager promptly apologized, fixed the issue and sent me a new sandwich right away. The problem was resolved then and there. 3 days later, I checked the mail to find a gift card from the restaurant inviting me back in for a visit on them. I will definitely go back, not only because I enjoyed my experience that first time, but they demonstrated care for me by going one step further to fix the problem.
STRONG PRESENCE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
- Provision of storytelling can add value by offering tips, education, additional insight to the brand that is “free” and tells the buyer that “we are here for you.” Example: Instead of just promoting sales of a scarf, publish an Instagram post with 10 ways to wear it.
- Use of user-generated content (reposts of user content) turns that brand believer into a FAN FOR LIFE. It tells your customers that you aren’t here just to push your own stuff in their face, the love is reciprocated.
- Engaging your customers or other brands. Example: Wendy’s Twitter is on fire because all they do is roast McDonald’s (or followers who heckle them). They have crafted a very specific brand voice and write back to people who reply. It’s so brilliant and becomes a conversation topic and stays top of mind so you know where your next burger is coming from.
- Speak to trending topics when they fit. If there is a theme your brand can easily translate into a relevant post for your users, do it. On Black Friday we made up social posts about why Black Wednesday was better than Black Friday. It was a hit because there were no lines.
- Having someone on your team that is ready to address community issues, concerns and messaging can help you do what you do best.
- Be proactive about programming, anticipating press opportunities and trying to plan ahead with strategy.
EDUCATIONAL BLOG AND EMAIL CONTENT.
- Sending out additional information and content through email and blog can be a great way to build a community. Throw in some perks and promos along the way to keep your open/click rates high. Again, this “free” value is important because the buyer won’t feel like your sweater is that expensive when they get to hear from you with useful information all the time.
- Show your fans that you love them. Host events, offer rewards, create programming that consistently thanks them for staying a part of your family. Once they have built up so many rewards, they will continue to seek more and will have so much brand affinity they won’t consider leaving.
Again, this is a more long-term goal and focus, but will serve you down the road. So next time, be more thoughtful about how you proactively plan to engage your customers and how to be more responsive on the back end too! What have you found through trying to build your brand community?