In today’s digitally driven world, community-based marketing is no longer something that’s a nice to have. It’s become a fundamental way to reach and engage with your audience.
According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, “84 percent of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business”.
Customers are no longer seeking just a great product, they also value authentic human connections with both a brand and their community of customers.
With so much choice now available at the click of a quick Google search, people’s buying decisions are becoming a reflection of their identities as well as the communities they belong to. Say hello to, community-based marketing,
What is community-based marketing?
Community-based marketing is about leveraging the power of connection, and building a business with your audience, instead of building a business that talks at them.
The rise of social media and online review platforms has given everyone with the internet a voice; a place where they can share their opinions, leave their feedback, and shape the purchase decisions of those around them.
When you include your audience in your business journey, you’re demonstrating that you value their opinions that you want to cater to their needs, and that you see and hear them. It’s this approach that makes community-based marketing so impactful. It inspires a deeper connection and a stronger loyalty from your audience that can really make your business grow.
Here’s how some of our customers define community-based marketing:
“When I think of community-based marketing, what comes to mind is that I find that my community does a lot of the marketing for me, so I don’t have to work as hard when it comes to trying to get new clients. I haven’t run ads in probably two years because all of my referrals come directly from my community.” – Erika Gayle, Founder of The Babes Club
“The meaning of community-based marketing in my opinion is about co-creating with your community and really listening to them. An example that jumps to mind of a brand that has done this absolutely brilliantly is Glossier, most people know that it started out as a blog called ‘into the gloss’, and from there, people were able to chat about the challenges that they were having with traditional beauty brands. And through listening to those people. That’s where glossier was kind of born and created solutions to meet those challenges that came directly from their community. Listening to your audience is what defines community-based marketing to me”. – Marsha Druker, Founder of Fuckup nights, Toronto.
The benefits of community-based marketing
Community-based marketing provides you with a better understanding of your customers and offers an extremely authentic touchpoint which also offers you a treasure trove of information that helps you to gain more clarity on how to deliver an incredible buyer experience for your customers, but that’s just one of the benefits.
Here are some others:
#1. More meaningful relationships
Although social media was originally meant to be all about the social element, the reality is very different. The major social networks are advertising platforms first and foremost, with social interactions between brands and their audiences rarely extending beyond likes. Effective community marketing places real relationships before anything else.
#2. Authentic user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) has become the driving force shaping purchase decisions, especially when it comes to online reviews or word-of-mouth recommendations. Brands are no longer in direct control of the perception customers have of them, so promoting the creation of UGC offers the benefit of a whole new level of authenticity and effectiveness.
#3. Higher customer lifetime value
Customer relationships aren’t all about transactions. They’re also about brand perception and loyalty. By building and maintaining a community, you create a strong sense of belonging. In a lot of cases, people originally come for the product or service, but end up staying for the community and this can greatly increase your customer lifetime value.
#4. Deeper customer insights
There’s far more to knowing your customer than just relying on numbers and figures generated by analytics tools. While data analytics is undoubtedly an important tool, they don’t come as close to the insights you can glean from getting involved with your customers on a more personal level via an online community.
How to get started with community-based marketing
Like any form of marketing, community-focused marketing is all about your customer and delivering value beyond your product or service alone. In a community, this value comes in the form of meaningful social interactions.
Here’s how you can get started with it:
Step #1. Decide what’s right for your brand
The first step is to determine how you’re going to deliver value. Will it be through peer-to-peer support, or will it provide an opportunity for customers to leave feedback and offer suggestions of their own? These are just a couple of the options. Chances are you’ll have multiple goals.
Step #2. Define your target audience
You’ve probably already got a pretty good picture of your ideal customer since buyer personas are essential in any area of marketing. However, some of your buyer personas might be more receptive than others to your community-building efforts, so you’ll need to think about that too.
Step #3. Choose a community platform
Although it is possible to build your own online community from the ground up, doing so won’t be cheap. For most brands, the easiest and most cost-effective option is a white-label platform that offers you complete control, such as a community platform.
Step #4. Create a content strategy
There’s quite a lot of crossover between content marketing and community marketing. After all, your community isn’t going to get off the ground if there’s no content for people to engage with and talk about. So make it a priority to create a long-term strategy for publishing value-adding content. Check out this resource for 100 content ideas.
Step #5. Start a pre-launch campaign
When you announce the launch of your community is up to you, but one rule of thumb is when you’ve got the platform up and running behind the scenes. A pre-launch campaign helps generate a buzz before the big day, so you don’t end up having an empty community at launch.
Step #6. Choose community admins
Every community needs rules and guidelines, as well as a group of admins and moderators. But these vital roles aren’t just about enforcing order; they’re about leading by example and getting the conversation going. They’re the lifeblood of any community, so choose them wisely!
Top community-based marketing ideas
Community-focussed marketing is one of the most effective ways to build brand loyalty and stay at the forefront of people’s attention in an age of constant distraction.
Here are some proven ways to engage your users:
Idea #1. Create an online competition
People are inherently competitive in nature, and virtually everyone likes games. Competitions are a great way to raise awareness and increase your member counts, especially if there’s a chance of winning a freebie from participating.
Idea #2. Host events
With more businesses operating exclusively in the digital space, it’s easy to forget about the benefits of organising real-world events. With a close-knit community of your own, you have the perfect venue to promote your events and build relationships.
Idea #3. Set up an online treasure hunt
Running an online treasure hunt can be especially effective in product ideation communities where you want to educate and entertain your members while also tapping into their expertise. It’s a great way to gather insights and create an engaging and competitive environment.
Idea #4. Livestream to your community
Livestreaming is a great way to bring your brand that bit closer to home – it also gives you the opportunity to deliver product announcements, training programs, Q&A’s and engaging how-tos.
Idea #5. Leverage customer testimonials
If you have customers who are already shouting about your community, product, and overall offering then make use of them. You can share them on your marketing materials such as emails, or do podcast or video interviews to help others build trust with your brand.
Idea #6. Run loyalty programs
Loyalty programs are a great way to reward your customers for trusting and using your product/service. This can look like loyalty discount cards, access to private events or gifting them with additional goodies.
Idea #7. Consider social impact
Everybody likes to give back to a bigger cause. You can leverage this by teaming up with a cause that you care about and donating a small amount to them for every customer who purchases your product. You can also reach out to causes you care about and offer them unique perks which are tailored to them. This is a great way to expand your community and build trust with your existing customers.
5 examples of community-based marketing to inspire you
Often, the best way to get started with any new marketing strategy is to look at what others are doing to engage their target audiences.
Here are a few examples to inspire you:
Example #1. Lego
Lego’s community is a great example of community-based marketing. Their platform ‘Lego ideas’ allows community members to share visual ideas for new products and present creations they’ve made using Lego. Members can then vote and comment on specific ideas.
Example #2. Monzo
Monzo is a UK-based bank that operates entirely online, but that’s not all that makes it unusual. It also revolves around its community, building its products and services based on feedback from customers. It launches real-world events too, for bringing together fans and experts alike.
Example #3. Depop
Peer-to-peer social shopping app Depop is all about tapping into creative influencers to drive the latest trends in fashion. It offers a community-based mobile shopping experience in which purchase decisions are shaped by recommendations from friends and peers.
Example #4. ASOS
Fashion and cosmetic, ASOS, retailor are similar to Depop in that it revolves around product discovery empowered by a highly active presence on social media. It relies heavily on a diverse portfolio of influencers and engaging content to help ensure customer success.
Example #5. Adidas creators club
The Adidas Creator’s Club builds community through a rewards program. Community members can complete activities like uploading images or participating in a workout to receive rewards like early access to sales, product discounts, or exclusive invites to events.
Is social media right for community-based marketing?
Many brands are making a killing with community-based marketing, and although platforms like Facebook are popular venues for community marketing there’s also a lack of control since you’re at the mercy of a third party which naturally puts their own interests first.
To future-proof your brand, instead of relying on others, building a community of your own is undoubtedly the safest and most effective option.
Communities provide brands with an opportunity for huge growth. Those that get community-building right will build brands that are perfectly matched with the needs and behaviour of their customers for the long term.
At our recent Harvest event, we discussed the topic of community-based marketing with some of our customers, in-depth. Watch the full replay here.