For the many years that preceded social media, marketers relied mostly on engaging with their consumers in one-way communications. This included television, radio, direct mail, billboards etc.
Once social media came along, consumers had the opportunity to “talk back,” so to speak, and tell brands what they thought about their products and services. Brands quickly learned just what consumers thought about the products and services. This type of consumer feedback was once relegated to the more controlled environments of market research and/or customer service listening.
The term “relationship marketing” took on a whole new meaning. Enterprising brands began to realize that the opportunity for a dialogue with their consumers, while uncontrolled, also presented a significant opportunity.
After all, if brands could gather consumers in online environments, they could:
With this in mind, brands began to build online consumer communities. These communities have taken on many forms and may be anything from a standalone site powered by marketing software to private, dedicated Facebook Groups.
This does beg the question: Do consumers want to commune with brands? Well, as my favorite business school professor used to say, the answer is always, “It depends.”
It depends on whether the engagement with the brand will provide value to the consumer.
4 Principles for Building A Strong Community
After years of building and managing online communities, we have observed four key ingredients for building a strong brand community:
1. Shared Purpose
The most successful communities that we observed have a combination of the above elements and, most importantly, show community members appreciation for their participation.
Building a dialogue with consumers is the first step in building a strong relationship. Digital has provided brands with unprecedented opportunities to engage with its customers. Consumer communities can provide brands with rich insight and value if executed correctly.
What elements have you seen in successful brand communities? Comment below or tweet me @shespeaking to let me know.