12 Most Basic Elements For Building A Community Around Your Brand
Brands are bigger than the products or services they provide. They are about people, about passionate users and followers who share their experiences good and bad. A strong and vibrant community can make or break a brand, but creating one is not as hard as you might think.
1. Create a common ground
People come together based on shared values and interests. Music, charity, sustainable living, and even Charlie Sheen’s demise have all served as a means of creating community.
2. Give them something to believe in
People aren’t passionate about products. They’re passionate about innovative ideas, people changing the world, and giving back to others, so look for a high-level vision that matches your company mission and can unite a community of followers.
3. Establish the rules of engagement
Be upfront about what is and isn’t acceptable within the community. Include any guidelines for foul language, types of topics discussed, how members of the community should treat each other, etc. and openly post them where followers can see them.
4. Give them a place to talk
Too often brands try to keep customers segregated. Don’t. Bring then together on social media, at events, at your place of business, or anywhere else where they can mingle and make connections amongst themselves.
5. Give them a sense of a shared history
When we feel like we have a shared experience we feel like we belong somewhere. A history with a particular disease, concern for our children, a visit to the same national park—any experience can act as a starting point for establishing a history.
6. Give them ways to contribute
Let them share letters, videos, photos, and other content that they create themselves. Also look for ways to let them add to the culture, rules, and other elements of the community structure.
7. Encourage self-regulation
Don’t be so quick to jump in and address complaints, naysayers, or customer service questions. Often your community will jump in and do it for you. Not only does this make it easier for you to manage, it further creates a sense of ownership and buy in for your community members.
8. Avoid bribery
Occasional contests and rewards are good, but don’t immediately jump to bribery to gain followers. Number one, once the precedent is set they will always wait for you to offer something before they are willing to do something for you. Two, a strong community relies on a visceral connection between its members and the company. You can’t buy their love.
9. Create social capital/currency
As members participate they should be earning credits (figuratively speaking) for their involvement. As they do they can redeem them for favors. Just like neighbors sharing sugar and lawn tools, members of the community should be able to ask for and give assistance to others.
10. Give them ways to communicate directly with you
You can’t isolate yourself from your followers or send them to an off-shore customer service center. Social media, named representatives, and other forums make it easy for customers to reach you with praise, questions, concerns, and feedback. The more that they feel like you are listening the more they will contribute (and tell their friends).
11. Apply the feedback they share
Don’t just passively accept feedback. If twenty customers tell you they want a new feature then look into ways to give it to them. Communities provide low-cost but invaluable market and product development research. Don’t waste it. Plus, when a customer knows they had a hand in improving or creating a product or service they are going to tell everyone they know. You can’t buy marketing or loyalty like that.
12. Be Flexible
Its hard to let go of control, especially when it comes to your brand, but in order to build a vibrant community you need to be willing to let it go into a direction you hadn’t considered. A community is bigger than you. You need to let it become whatever it will.
Featured image courtesy of mikebaird licensed via creative commons.