The era of brands telling stories is over. In today’s globalized world, the most successful companies aren’t simply talking – they’re having a dialogue with their customers and, in the process, are building a following. If leveraged correctly, this new level of engagement and commitment is the first step to building an online community – the next level in brand loyalty.
This is especially true for companies with interactive products. As a gaming company, we at Plarium don’t want people to forget about us during the months in between our game launches. As such, we make it a focus to keep players happy, provide entertainment value and update our products to keep our customers engaged all of the time.
So if you’re a business owner or a savvy marketer, how do you create a community around your brand? The below best practices are the ones that we’ve learned from our personal experience, and we feel they can be applied to any consumer brand:
- Communication – More than likely, consumers are giving you feedback about your products and services every day, and they want to be assured that you’re listening. Be sure you dedicate staff and resources, not simply to bringing a product to market, but to continue giving life to your products and brand after launch. If you invest in communication, a product launch is just the beginning.
The people who offer you their feedback about how to improve your products are your most engaged customers. Try to make customers part of your product development cycle. Some marketers may argue that customers may not know what’s best for them, or that they have unrealistic expectations, but we find that their opinions should always be considered.
In our case, the social aspect of our products extends beyond the game. Our support and community teams monitor our social media platforms on a daily basis, engage in discussions with our players, and take opinions into consideration when designing future aspects of the game. The result? Our players take notice, and they say it’s one of our main distinctions. We know who our key players are and we take their input very seriously.
- Quality – If you have strong communication with your customers, chances are that you have a solid understanding of what is important to them when they interact or use your product. Then, it’s up to you to prioritize your community’s wants and needs to build an even higher quality product. Quality is the key to building enthusiasm for your brand, and consistent quality is what keeps people invested in the long run. If you have the ability, continue developing and updating your product if it’s not at a level that matches the audience’s standard – otherwise, it’s hard to change a customer’s opinion if they’ve had a negative experience with your company.
Don’t be afraid of obsessing over the details — they matter. For us, the details include graphics to the storyline, from the sound quality to the characters. When we started developing games in 2009, the idea of a high quality social game was still fairly new. We didn’t want players to feel that our games were “good enough”; we wanted people to look at our games and say, “Wait, I had no idea that was even possible to do in a Facebook game.”
Customization is another detail that adds to the quality of a product. When we localized our games for different regions, we screened different translators by going to markets and having strangers read character dialogue out loud. If they didn’t laugh, we went back and found a new translator – you can hear that level of commitment to the script in the final product.
Everyone has a different definition of what “quality” is. So, find out what your customers value most, and move your brand in that direction.
- Culture – If you take the steps to communicate with your customers and build a quality product, soon enough you’ll see customers becoming brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors are the people who are loyal to your brand, recommend it to others, and defend your products when needed. You can’t pay for brand ambassadors. It takes a lot of time and effort, but eventually the community culture you’ve worked to develop will take on a life of its own.
Don’t forget that your brand culture is inspired by the people within your company. Customers can feel the difference when a company truly believes in its own value and mission. Show how vested you are in the products you make, and watch the community embrace that passion.
Our enthusiasm for our products is exemplified through our staff. Our Kharkov studio has just moved into a new office fully inspired by the themes in our games. Our team members soak in our creative culture within their workspace and this extends socially as well with themed events such as “Pirate Day.” The culture we’ve fostered allows for a global sense of camaraderie, regardless of our players’ geographic and social boundaries. We influence our fans with our undying devotion to gaming, and in turn, our fans influence us with the same enthusiasm.
The rise of the Internet and social media has created a new dimension of real interaction between brands and its customers. Learn to trust your community, engage in a dialogue and make a commitment to deliver a high quality product. Engage and empower your customers to interact and collaborate with you and with one another. Ultimately, when a brand and its customers come together, there is no limit to what can be achieved.