The last decade has seen social and mobile technologies transform the way we publish and consume information to the extent that digital opportunities have become the crown jewels of modern marketing. But, the internet is much more than just a space to reach audiences in the millions; it’s a space to build viral communities and, in doing so, unite people under a common goal. When it comes to brand-building, there are ways to improve your community which add value to the entire business: marketers can build loyalty, customer support can incorporate peer-to-peer resolutions, and product teams can acquire feedback to improve their offer.

#1. Focus on relationships

Brand communities aren’t meant to be virtual platforms where you simply gather customers in one place and start advertising to them. They’re social spaces where members who share a common goal or interest come together and exchange ideas and experiences. A successful brand community puts human relationships before anything else to help instil a sense of loyalty both to the brand and to the community itself. This sense of belonging makes it much easier to retain customers and build a customer-centric brand. By incorporating the abilities of social media, your online community will be better positioned to harbour meaningful relationships.

#2. Showcase user-generated content

One of the best ways to improve your community is to showcase use0-generated content. User-generated content, or UGC, refers any content that’s created and shared by customers, such as social media posts, online reviews, user guides, pictures, and videos. It’s valuable to your brand-building strategy simply because it’s a vote of confidence. Studies show that 84% of consumers read reviews of local businesses before they make a purchase. By placing your customers front and center, you can let their voices tell your story for you which, naturally, is a lot more authentic than conventional advertising. Online communities provide a space where you can highlight UGC in a way that adds authenticity to your brand through social proof while rewarding customers with recognition.

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#3. Lead the conversation

Every brand that has customers has a community. They’re talking about you on social media, leaving feedback on consumer review sites, passing recommendations to their friends through instant messages, and snapping photos for image-sharing platforms. By building a community of your own, you can overcome some of that disparity and have a direct line of communication with your most valued customers. In essence, they become an extension of your internal team, a liaison between your brand and its wider target audience. Leading by example, you can also establish a degree of control over your community and keep it a safe space where members can exchange ideas and experiences without having to worry that their voices will end up lost in the expanse of mainstream social media.

#4. Prioritise relevance over quantity

While there’s no denying the value of social media for reaching large numbers of potential customers quickly, it’s easier to be seduced by headcounts alone than by relevant, targeted audiences. Open a business page on a major social media channel, and chances are most of your followers will never engage beyond that click of the ‘Like’ button. There’s also a chance that many of those followers are fake profiles. With your own branded community, you’ll likely never have the following you’ll have on social media in terms of numbers, but that’s not a bad thing. Instead, you’ll be better positioned to build a community consisting of engaged members who add real value to your brand, and not just boost vanity metrics like follower counts.

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#5. Act on feedback

The content generated by online communities can provide invaluable insights into customer sentiment and identify areas in need of improvement. Consolidating this feedback into a brand community and openly empowering your customers with a voice can enhance these insights even further. The most successful brand communities provide enormous benefits to research and development teams by giving them access to the feedback they need to deliver a better product or service. For example, look at how the Lego Ideas community leverages feedback and contests to find the next big product idea.

#6. Make it accessible

Another way to improve your community is to make it more accessible. Distractions are everywhere, and if your community only exists as a basic website forum, a lot of people are going to forget it exists. To boost engagement rates, particularly among newer members, you’ll need to make your community as accessible as possible. Maintain a strong and consistent presence is much easier to achieve if your community provides an excellent experience on the small screen. Most people keep their smartphones close by everywhere they go, so having a mobile app ensures your community is always just a tap away. Add push notifications into the mix, and you can also alert members to news, events, and anything else they want to keep informed about.

A person looking at the data on the tablet

#7. Integrate your community software

Online communities now play a central role in many core business operations to the extent they should no longer stand apart from the organisation’s wider technology ecosystem. Not only should your community be easily accessible to its members, but also internally. One of the best ways to improve your community is to integrate the platform with other important business applications, such as your customer service and relationship management software. A fully integrated platform enables stronger collaboration by making it easier to share data and extend functionality.

#8. Sell to your members

When people are browsing through their timelines on mainstream social media, they’re not usually in buying mode. With banner blindness reducing the value of disruptive advertising, it’s more important that you can reach your audience when they’re actively thinking about making a purchase. Since an owned brand community increases your visibility during times when people actually want to hear from you, chances are they’ll be much more receptive to buying from you. While you must always be careful to ensure that monetising your community doesn’t detract from the user experience, there are often many opportunities to increase sales, such as by integrating online purchases or offering paid subscription options.

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#9. Incorporate your branding

We believe that one of the best ways to improve your community is to incorporate your branding into it. Third-party channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offer very limited opportunities to incorporate your brand codes. Beyond things like logos and header images, there’s little you can do to make the unique personality of your brand shine through. That makes it harder for people to recognise you, let alone remember you through all the noise of conventional social media. By developing your own community, you have every opportunity to customise your platform in a way that it aligns with the culture and goals of your organisation. You have more opportunities to highlight the content that’s most important to you and your customers and offer a fully tailored experience that’s memorable because it’s more unique.

#10. Reward engagement

More than ever, customers desire a say in the direction of the products and services they like. Sure, they can post their feedback and vent their frustrations on a multitude of online platforms, but the latter is much more likely if they feel you’re not listening to them. With a community of your own, you have ample opportunities to reward engagement. You can highlight the most valuable feedback and incorporate peer-to-peer voting features through the abilities to share, like and comment on posts. You can think of it as a popularity contest that rewards constructive participation through greater recognition. Before long, you’ll start seeing active user counts increasing rapidly as members become driven by a thriving social space.

So, these are our top ways to improve your community. Leave your best tips on engaging and improving your communities in the comments.

Disciple social spaces help brands enjoy all the benefits of community with an independent, valuable, and trusted platform in a safe space that they own and control. Start building your brand community by telling us about your community goals.