7 Members Every Brand Needs to Build a Diverse Community
Wed Oct 23 2019
For centuries, local brands have engaged their local communities to build relationships with consumers and boost business. But in our digital age, there’s a new opportunity for brands to drive community — at a global scale.
Brand building used to happen on a few highly consolidated channels (magazines, TV, and billboards), but today, channel fragmentation has made that harder than ever before. The good news is, it’s no longer about which channels you’re using. The power now lies with the people, who form communities around brands and ultimately control the narrative on what’s cool and what’s not.
To power growth and drive advocacy, brands need to manage diverse communities that weigh in at every level. This means building products, serving experiences, and telling stories that are co-created with your community.
We’ve identified seven community members that are important to engage in order to effectively drive business. They are:
- • Influencers
- • Creatives
- • Customers
- • Ambassadors
- • Experts
- • Affiliates
- • Employees
In this blog, we’ll share how we define each community member and discuss how modern brands can engage with them in a way that is personal and authentic.
Influencers are social media micro-celebrities who create aspirational and highly engaging content in categories ranging from beauty, fashion, travel, food, tech, and so on. They have the ability to capture their audience’s attention with their expert storytelling skills and relatability. Because influencers interact with their audience on a daily basis, they have a level of trust and authority given to them by their followers.
The most distinct feature about influencers is not the amount of followers they have, but rather their ability to affect other people’s decisions. The most successful influencers are the authentic ones, who share the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of their lives and only promote brands that they genuinely love.
That’s why many brands sought after micro-influencers, or creators with under 150k followers, who have very close relationships with their audiences due to their authentic interactions. While macro-influencers, or those with a much bigger following, have the kind of global reach that some brands want, micro-influencers typically achieve higher engagement for a lower cost per action due to their knowledge about some specialty niche.
But influencers provide more value than one-off social media posts. Because influencers have a certain level of fame online, repurposing their content across all of your marketing channels provides the ultimate social proof. Brands can also invite influencers to events to incentivize consumers to be a part of major brand moments, such as store openings and product launches.
Creatives are people in the profession of photography, art, music, and the like. They are just as the name suggests — creative. They have the ability to bring new perspectives to everyday products and ideas, in a way that your in-house team may not be able to alone.
That’s why brands should engage with creatives to source very unique, high-quality content. They are well-versed in working with best-in-class equipment and creating professional-grade content that draws people in. Creatives aren’t necessarily famous online, but some do accumulate a large following because of their artistic skills. Check out one of our favorite creatives, @escapingyouth, whose content is always original and eye-catching.
Customers, or the individuals that purchase a company’s goods or services, are the people driving every business. At the fundamental level, no business can survive without happy customers. This means it’s extremely important to monitor customer relationships and identify ways to improve your services or products.
But customers do more than purchase products. They leave online reviews, spread word-of-mouth buzz, and may even share your product on social to tell their friends. Brands today can engage with customers through user-generated content (UGC). UGC is highly organic content that customers post online without being asked. It allows brands to generate online buzz, interact with consumers, and collect authentic feedback. Not to mention, it doesn’t cost brands a single cent to produce UGC.
Ambassadors are people who are paid to not only talk positively about the companies they represent, but also to embody the brand they are endorsing. Brand ambassadors could be anyone from “regular” people to celebrities. What matters is recruiting passionate fans, who can authentically promote the brand and implement its products or services into their lives.
For example, Lululemon has an amazing brand ambassador program comprised of fitness instructors and elite athletes. Because each ambassador lives a very active lifestyle, they can easily incorporate the high-end activewear brand into their lives.
Ambassadorships are by definition long-term partnerships. Brands extensively train their ambassadors on their products and services, as well as on their company’s mission and values. Because of this, ambassadors become true brand experts who can educate their audiences on the products they promote. They can also provide a helping hand when launching a new product or giving honest feedback.
Experts are people who have specialized knowledge in a certain industry. They’re especially valued in industries like health and fitness, where a lot of knowledge and experience is required. Think yoga instructors, professional athletes, dieticians, and so on.
Experts are consumers’ most trusted source when it comes to getting advice and recommendations, because they typically have legitimate credentials to back up their expert status.
Take a look at Rachel Paul — perhaps better known as @collegenutritionist — who dishes out well-balanced meal prep ideas everyday. Not only is she a Registered Dietician, but she also has a PhD in Behavioral Nutrition. Unsurprisingly, her Instagram and blog are flooded by questions about nutrition and healthy recipes.
Particularly in saturated industries like health and wellness, it is hard for consumers to differentiate between legitimate products and fads. To stand out, brands should engage with experts to educate consumers, provide transparency, and establish credibility in their industries. By extension, consumers will trust your brand’s message and products over your competitors’.
Affiliates are individuals who help brands capitalize on customer conversions. They earn a commission for promoting a brand's products and bringing in leads that ideally turn into sales. Typically, affiliates work with brands they like, advocate for their products across various social channels, and earn a piece of the profit from each sale they make. The sales they make from their promotion is tracked via affiliate links or codes from one website source to another.
Building an affiliate program has proven to be highly cost-effective. Brands get the boost in brand awareness and online conversions without having to set aside a budget to pay the affiliate unless they make sales. It’s a win-win.
Employees are individuals who are hired by an employer to do a specific job. They work in your corporate offices — as brand marketers, social media managers, and so on — as well as in brick-and-mortar retail stores — as sales associates, store managers, and the like. Employees go into work everyday to ultimately help drive growth and profit for the business. When you think about it, employees are some of the best advocates for any brand because their daily routine revolves around improving the brand and its products.
In fact, a recent study showed that all brands should tap into the power of employees through employee advocacy programs. It reported that audiences increase 561% when a brand message is shared by employees versus shared via a corporate channel alone. Additionally, it showed that 26% of employee influencer programs helped increase revenue year-over-year. That’s why brands like L’Occitane and Macy’s are featuring employees across their marketing channels.
In short, leveraging the power of community has never been more important. To do so, brands need to engage with every community member mentioned above.
Brands no longer decide what the trends are or what consumers really want. Today, the people in your community control the brand narrative.