Despite technology’s best efforts, the global population isn’t as connected as you might think. The internet can be a lonely place. And with shopping mostly done online now, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to connect and engage with your audience.
Your biggest asset is often your community, and not capitalising on that is a significant error. Your community is your audience, customers, partners and employees – it’s every personal relationship you have or could potentially have.
Businesses and brands have failed because they lacked community, empathy and that human touch – don’t underestimate how far that can go. Your community can foster engagement and evangelism, bringing brand loyalty and repeat business.
When we say community, we mean building a genuine community through interaction throughout your audience and workplace. There are opportunities to engage with your audience and team in any product’s lifecycle or a brand’s lifetime. Community is about capitalising on those opportunities.
Maximising your community assets puts a human behind your brand, literally if you’ve hired a community manager. This means crafting a tone of voice, outreach, engagement, and an empathetic component to your brand.
Building a community and leveraging it to your advantage allows you to actively listen to your audience and team, hopefully picking out feedback and useful ideas that you can later implement. You’ll also be able to increase awareness, provide support, learn about your audience, and provide value.
Perhaps the main reason you should be building and interacting with a community is the opportunity to listen and learn. Knowing your audience is critical in business, and it’s also a significant step in creating a positive internal culture. You have to be able to understand wants, needs, desires, as well as what’s going wrong. By gathering this information, you’ll be in a much stronger position.
Your community marketing strategy will vary depending on the audience you target, as what resonates with one audience won’t resonate with another. Community marketing is a niche strategy in itself, targeting ‘local’ audiences. However, we mean local in terms of shared interests, as most communities today are defined by their interests and not their geography.
No matter who your audience is, authenticity is the key to building relationships. Your community and audience will soon realise if you’re faking it, so it’s crucial that you remain authentic and genuinely believe in the message you are spreading. You won’t be able to capture anybody’s attention if you’re not genuine.
Know What You’re Talking About
Similar to being authentic, it’s critical that you know what you’re talking about when communicating with your audience. Without doing the proper research, you run the risk of making errors about the topics you’re talking about or coming across as insensitive. Only those who know what they’re talking about build relationships and communities, and those who don’t can put their foot in it or be ignored completely.
Focus on Niche Audiences
To maximise your community effectively, you should look to very localised audiences for interaction and engagement. For a long time, mass appeal and going viral was the primary goal, but now the value is more in localised audiences and having an impact within a niche. This way, you can enjoy brand loyalty and less competition from rivals.
Build Relationships and Engage
To really capitalise on your community and build one in the first place, it’s crucial that you engage with members of the community and build lasting relationships. Most audiences don’t want to feel like they’re being marketed to, so building relationships is a better way to build brand loyalty and get audiences on board with what you’re trying to develop. Community marketing means speaking to a smaller audience but actually communicating with them rather than talking at them.
Before getting into the results, it’s crucial to consider the broader business objectives that are at stake. You can’t measure something that hasn’t been planned out, so it’s wise to think about the following:
- What is the business trying to achieve?
- How can the community impact that?
- What is the appropriate outcome?
- How can the community impact the outcome?
- And what is a sensible scaling plan?
With the above in mind, you need to consider the audience too. It’s impossible to maximise your community assets without knowing who they are, what they like, what their interests are and what turns them off. You should know them inside out before setting out your community strategy. So, you should be considering:
- Do we know our audience?
- Who are we targeting?
- Are we creating subsets in our audience?
As with any area of your business, it’s crucial to consider how your value proposition fits into your broader business objectives. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who are we?
- Who are we not?
- What do we want to be?
Then make the answers to those questions specific to your business, in as much detail as possible. Just as you have to understand your audience in your community strategy, you must also understand yourself.
Community strategies are a two-way conversation between brand and audience, and indeed employer and employee in some cases. So you need to understand what you’re trying to say and why, before you say it.
Once these questions have been answered, answer another set of questions to find your whitespace - ergo, find your community:
- Who are our competitors?
- How do we want to compare?
- How can we measure the competition?
- How can we plot our trajectory?
- By doing the above, you can begin to find your whitespace and a place to interact with your audience and build a community.
For your community strategy, it’s important to understand what success looks like. Success can come in many different guises for community strategies, such as a boost in followers, number of conversation engagements, shares or likes, website traffic or even sales. You’ll also need to understand how you’ll measure this success and what metrics will signal success for you.
Setting attainable goals is also crucial for your community strategy. For example, don’t set out to grow your channel by twenty thousand followers in the first month because that’s unrealistic. Instead, focus on the engagement and conversations you can have along the way and try to build a genuine community that adds value.
Further, you should anchor your results with reports – stay grounded and factual. Build the reports into the strategy and iterate and improve as you move forward. Then, let the strategy breathe and be a natural growth mechanism.
Bringing Things to a Close
Community marketing is all about building relationships – you’re not speaking to the nation with a community marketing campaign, so your outreach should match that. It’s a much smaller audience, but a highly engaged one that allows you to build brand loyalty. This all allows you to let your audience do the major marketing for you; word of mouth can work wonders, and if you’ve built a strong community then they’ll spread the word for you.
Your community should be a place where your entire audience is welcome and feels at home, with conversation bubbling away and loyalty breeding organically. Don’t lose sight of who makes you, and, equally, who can tear you down. Your audience and team are your biggest asset – maximise them, and give them what they want. You won’t regret it.