Let me take a guess: A few years ago your company decided to give social media a try to better leverage your brand community. Every now and then you spend big money doing a mainstream media campaign to expand your follower base and this results in your team managing a Facebook page with one gazillion likes. Now your boss is asking to see a ROI report on your community building efforts and you realize the numbers you’re about to give him are terrible. Does this sound familiar?
The reason why this ‘fake’ community growth leads to nothing is that your community is actually not growing. Go tell your boss you’ve been throwing millions out the window for the last few years. And before you read on, remember this: A bunch of likes doesn’t mean you have a community!
The only way to effectively grow a community is by growing it organically. People join communities because they want to be entertained, learn about and discuss a topic with likeminded people and most importantly to belong to something. And the world is already full of strong communities – online or offline. Every single person on this planet is an engaged member of at least a couple. This is an opportunity that few companies leverage to the fullest degree. And this might well be the solution to your problem.
“How to build a genuine brand community, now that my boss cut half of my marketing budget?”
Well my friend, do it the easy way. Go after existing communities that share your brand’s ethos and passion for whatever you do. This has many advantages compared to most classic marketing techniques:
Lower marketing costs
Like animals, people move in groups. If a few members of the community decide to engage with your brand, there’s a big chance the whole community will follow. This is much more cost effective than going after individuals or doing main stream campaigns.
Community members are constantly discussing with each other and sharing their latest discoveries. This is a highly effective way to spread your message. And the viral effect is not limited to that one community. Most communities are interconnected, they’re constantly looking at each other, share the same members and pick up interesting trends or content in ‘sister communities’.
Members of existing communities already have their place
When someone joins a community it takes time to move up from passive member, to engaging in discussions, to taking initiatives and creating content. When engaging with existing communities, your new members already went through this process and will become active much quicker within your brand community.
Context and street credibility.
Like Seth Godin explains in his book ‘All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories’, marketing is all about telling stories. Your story should be a whole and when one element doesn’t feel right to your brand community, every effort will result in failure. Being a brand, it’s extremely tough building a strong community as people will constantly be reminded that you’re trying to sell them something. Even when creating awesome content, knowing it comes from a brand often ruins the context. By letting existing communities take control of your brand, you can make people forget about your capitalistic motivations. Existing communities are built in the most genuine way. Having these join your brand community will completely change the energy or corporate feeling of your community.
Clear goal for marketers
Like most marketers you’ve probably had that feeling of emptiness, not knowing exactly what your effort will bring along and who you should go after next. It’s very common and it’s due to a lack of structure in a marketers long term plans.
When going after communities you know where to start and where to go next. You know that communities are interconnected and once you’ve successfully engaged with one, it’s easy to see which one you’ll target next. Just like communities grow, the way you engage with them will evolve organically.