Guest Post: Why Community Marketing Is the Biggest Growth Hack for Brands
Anyone can create a product, set up a Shopify store, and get a few sales.
But if you want to create a brand and I mean truly create a brand, it’s going to take a lot more than running ads or getting a feature in Forbes.
Creating a strong brand means becoming a necessary extension of your customer.
Think about brands like Glossier, Outdoor Voices or High Brew Coffee.
Whenever these brands release a new product, customers flock to their website or stores to purchase.
If you want to build a strong brand like these companies, you need to lean into community marketing.
What is community marketing?
Our definition of community marketing is any activity that creates organic conversation around a product or service without the intention to directly sell.
Think of your customers and prospects connecting with other customers and prospects, recommending products/services, and highlighting their experiences.
A strong community of brand advocates gets customers and prospects talking about your product or service without that glaring intention to sell you something.
Not only does a strong community get the word out about your product or service, but it can be a great tool for product feedback.
Your ability to build community is a growth hack
You might think that having a strong group of brand advocates is obvious, and it is.
But, the fact is, most companies fail to do this well.
Historically, building a loyal audience was a painstaking process. There were only so many ways to get the word out about your product.
Now, with so much digital media, it is much easier to build brand loyalty and foster the community you work so hard to build.
Even with the ability to reach millions of people within minutes, most brands still struggle to develop a strong community.
Well, many brands just try their hand at the latest marketing trends but don’t really take the time to understand the art of building a community or the processes needed to scale the one you have.
The sky is the limit for brands that combine scalability with a devotion to community growth.
Communities and social proof are king today
Thanks to the ease of access to stories through digital, there is a growing need for social proof (peer recommendations).
Since it’s so easy to find content about products online, more consumers expect and want to see their friends talking about products before purchasing.
You don’t need to go viral to win your share of the market, but you do need to build brand trust.
That’s where communities come in.
Community marketing is a treasure trove for social proof. When you have a strong community, your customers will share images, testimonials, give reviews, and more.
All of this user-generated content (UGC) has a big impact on purchase likelihood.
Having brand advocates that are consistently generating UGC also has trickle-down effects to new audiences.
Many consumers find UGC as a great way to discover new products.
That means not only is user-generated content from your community creating social proof for your prospects, it’s also reaching new consumers and creating new prospects!
The direct impact of brand audiences on revenue
Sure, building a community drives an increase in purchase likelihood and delivers social proof, but what does that mean for your business?
One word: SALES.
Community marketing has a direct impact on your bottom line.
Your customers might not actively promote your business, but their activities and purchases are being noted by other consumers. Everyone wants to be a part of a hot trend, it’s human nature.
According to a study conducted by The Community Roundtable, community marketing can generate an average of almost 650x ROI.
That’s because as consumers become a part of your ecosystem, your customer lifetime value shoots up.
How to build your community of brand advocates
If you want to have a strong community similar to the likes of the biggest consumer brands, you are going to have to work for it.
Luckily, thanks to digital platforms, it’s easier than ever to start building your community.
Using social media, you can quickly connect and engage customers to keep them talking about your brand, which is sure to grow your audience.
Here are 3 repeatable steps you can take right now to start growing your community:
1 - Encourage User Generated Content
We already looked at how user-generated content can have a direct impact on purchasing.
To create brand loyalty and build a strong community, you need to create a consistent, growing stream of UGC.
Encouraging UGC can be done a few different ways:
- Run a giveaway that asks customers to exchange user-generated content for an entry in your promotion
- Shoutout your customers
- Run a photo contest
The more UGC you’re able to create for your brand, the more likely you are to be seen. That can turn user-generated content into a compounding effect over time and grow your brand.
2 - Be responsive
Having a strong community means there is a strong relationship between your brand and customers.
This means conversation should not be one-sided (i.e. just coming from your customers).
You need to play offense and actively drive conversations with the consumers that are making the effort to engage with you.
That means commenting on tagged content on social, responding to reviews, and following up wherever else your community is talking about you.
Make sure you’re not only doing social listening, but you are also responding back to both negative AND positive feedback.
3 - Use influencers
Influence has become a powerful tool for brands to quickly skyrocket to the top.
Using influencers and affiliates allows you to control when people talk about your brand.
Instead of waiting for user-generated content to surface organically, invite influencers in your community to hype up your business.
This puts your brand front and center, even when it’s not on people’s radar.
As a bonus, using influencers can be a great way to generate high-quality user-generated content.
Influencers and creators are usually more skilled than the average customer which means you get to grow a library of high-quality content (that is, if you have the content rights).
The bottom line
Today’s biggest brands have built their businesses on loyalty. It’s a huge driver for ROI and customer lifetime value.
Even though it’s easier than ever for brands to build strong communities, many still struggle to effectively do community marketing.
This means that brands that can build audiences have a serious edge over those that can’t.
Luckily, there is a repeatable process that brands can follow to start building their communities.
- Encouraging user-generated content
- Being responsive
- Using influencers to steer brand discussion
By using these 3 steps effectively, brands can supercharge word-of-mouth discussions, drive brand growth and increase revenue.
This is the first part of a three-part series on how influencers can be a powerful growth tool for your brand.
In the next part, we will cover how to find the right influencers to maximize social proof and grow your brand.