Community Lessons From the World’s Leading Brands
The most successful brands today go beyond having half-baked connections with consumers via ads and other promotional content, and instead nurture customer relationships by engaging deeply with them and building a community around the brand.
These relationships plant the seed for organic growth, as community members share their love for the brand to their own circles. From there, more people are likely to try out the product, trust the brand, and recommend it to their friends and family, continuing the cycle of growth and creating a bigger community of brand advocates.
We recently had the chance to talk to top brands about their community building strategies. Below, we’ve compiled some of the most important lessons they shared.
Be human when engaging with people.
Because community is so personal, having a human approach is key to building a strong, engaged community. As such, brands need to have more one-on-one conversations with their community members. This is important for two reasons.
First, people generally hate feeling like they’re talking to an automated machine. Setting up automated messages and responses may be convenient for brands, but consumers are often frustrated at the roundabout process it takes to solve a problem or answer a simple question. This means brands risk missing important conversations and losing valuable customers along the way.
Secondly, the same messaging won’t resonate with every single community member. Personalizing outreach and responses will make community members feel valued and heard. These conversations will also allow brands to understand and incorporate feedback, making community members feel like they have a hand in the brand building process.
Essentially, one-on-one conversations are the foundation for long-term relationships. That’s why airline brand Southwest has a 24/7 “Listening Center,” where a few dozen employees monitor social networks for mentions of Southwest and respond to thousands of posts each day, in order to quickly help customers and build trust with their community. Of course, this helps them collect 5-star reviews, but their main goal is to genuinely listen and connect one-on-one with their customers.
Host more in-person events.
Communities rally together offline. That’s why the smartest brands take their conversations offline by bringing people together through in-person events, whether they’re open to the public or exclusive to certain community members.
Events such as pop-ups, speaker panels, and experiential spaces give people a reason to come together. At the events, brands can go beyond facilitated conversations by founders and marketing executives, and help community members connect and build relationships with each other around a shared interest — the brand. Perhaps they have previously chatted with each other via group chats or online forums. But bringing those relationships offline makes community members feel like they’re part of something bigger.
Take a look at how Peloton brings its community together. While the brand’s streaming workout experience is largely digital, Peloton invites its users to an annual, in-person Peloton Homecoming event at its New York studio. At the event, each Peloton enthusiast has the opportunity to take live classes, listen in on a keynote from the CEO, and mingle with other users — allowing Peloton fans from around the country to take their shared passion for the brand offline and rally together.
Exclusive events also work wonders for building community. In recent years, many brands have invited influencers and brand ambassadors to private parties and extravagant trips as a way to encourage building authentic relationships and a sense of community. But let’s be honest — we all want to be treated this way. Going forward, brands should invite other members like top customers, industry experts, and even employees to make them feel valued as well.
This brings me to my next point.
Treat everyone like an influencer… because they are.
Every individual has the power to influence, even if they’re not a well-known social media influencer. For example, if one person with 10 followers posts a negative review of a product, he or she is still affecting the purchase decisions and perceptions of their small following. On the other hand, when that same person praises a brand time and time again, their audience is compelled to check it out.
So, marketers must now approach other community members — not just influencers — who are passionate fans and huge advocates of their brand when looking for brand partners. Chances are, they are already raving about the brand and its products to their own friends and family and maybe even posting about it on social media.
Glossier has mastered this strategy. The brand’s recent “Feeling Like Glossier” campaign highlights seven people who are important members of its community: Ernest, an employee who works in-store, Hannah, the customer, and Paloma, a model who worked with Glossier previously. By featuring real people as influencers, the brand pays tribute to those who built Glossier.
To go one step further, turn these advocates into affiliates. This way, you’re only paying those who bring you value. They are real, loyal fans who can talk about your products in an engaging way to their own communities.