Have you ever asked yourself how your brand makes your customers feel? Sure, your customer service department may make them feel satisfied, or your sales team could make them feel confident in their purchase. But what does your actual brand itself make your customer feel?
According to research, when customers report a positive “feeling” from a brand, they begin to feel connected to that business, and in turn, are far more likely to purchase from them. Knowing that a business cares, listens to opinions, and simply understands are HUGE factors in building this connection.
When customers feel a connection to a business, they want to share that message with others. This is how a brand community is formed. A brand community refers to a group of consumers formed by the attachment to a product or brand. Think Apple, Xbox, Harley Davidson, etc.
Branded communities are incredibly beneficial to businesses. Not only does it increase customer loyalty, but it can also impact your website traffic numbers and result in higher conversion rates, too.
So, how can you start to create these important and connected brand communities in your customer base?
Here are four simple ways to get started.
1. Make Feedback an Opportunity for Conversation
Customer reviews are an essential tool for customer service departments in regards to handling issues and observing consumer sentiment. But, it can also be a great starting point for an engaged community.
Using a feedback system that takes things a step further than just a star rating allows customers to share their opinions and concerns. And most importantly, it makes them feel heard.
Take these reviews of Trustpilot as an example. While the star rating is certainly a part of the feedback process, each reviewer also writes out the details of the pros, cons, and overall experience with the product. This opens up a door for fruitful conversation between the customer and the business, of which can get a more thorough picture of how customers feel about the company.
Additionally, 27% of your future customers will look through brand community content as they research your business. By creating a platform that invites everyone to share their honest opinions, it not only opens the doors for you to respond and engage in conversation, but it can also be helpful for attracting wider audiences.
2. Understand What Types of Social Posts Encourage Engagement
Of course, social media will be a huge part of building a brand community. In fact, 59% of Americans engage with brands through social media several times every day, making it a prime location to start fostering a connected community.
This is done by sharing the type of branded content that gets your audience talking, sharing, and engaging. However, most businesses are missing the mark on what this means.
According to Sprout Social’s research, the type of content that consumers prefer does not match up with most marketing teams’ goals. Customers are far more interested in receiving discounts, special offers, and learning about how to use the product than they are with marketing materials.
Furthermore, they are more likely to engage with posts that offer sales or entertainment than with brand-focused content about the business.
By paying attention to the type of content that your audience prefers to engage with, your marketing team can start to build a community using social media. Rather than zeroing in on strictly marketing-focused content, build engagement by asking your customers questions, inviting them to share their opinions or ideas on your page, or teaching something new.
3. Design Content Around the Customer Journey
The customer journey is not always as linear as the marketing textbooks make it seem. As customers move from the awareness stage to action, and ultimately, advocacy, there are plenty of opportunities for brands to engage them in the community.
For example, when your customers first hear about your brand through an advertisement or recommendation, they will start into the research stage. The content that is available on your website should support this stage with the type of information they are seeking, but it can also be used to start them on the path to a connected community. Creating interactive content that aligns the marketing message to action (such as inviting them to join your newsletter for special offers or following a social media page) can support a smooth transition to the next stage.
You can even create separate communities for each stage. For example, an Aware/Engage community would be more interested in brand awareness and would be highly enticed by objective and educational content, so a social page community would be a great place for them to connect. On the other end of the spectrum, the Advocate community will be looking for opportunities to share their experiences with others, so group forums and membership opportunities would be ideal here.
4. Focus on Genuine Content
As a general rule, consumers are skeptical when it comes to most branded messaging directly from a company. They do, however, trust other people. In fact, 85% of customers trust reviews from other people just as much as they would a recommendation coming from someone they know personally.
The athletic apparel brand Outdoor Voices understood this, which is why their social pages regularly feature content directly from their brand community. They also encourage everyone to share their adventures with the branded hashtag #DoingThings, and their Instagram stories feature everyone from Olympic athletes to regular people sharing their workouts.
Due to their genuine and relatable marketing strategy, Outdoor Voices has been able to grow very quickly over the past four years, recently raising $34 million in funding for further expansion.
This is why user-generated content (especially on social media) is such a powerful tool for marketing. It not only creates a more transparent brand, but also gives your audience the chance to create a brand community that shares their experiences and stories in a fun, exciting, and more engaging way.
Creating opportunities for connections among your customers is the best way to build a brand that people are loyal to. Encourage conversational feedback, design your social messages around your audience’s desires, and use the kind of content that builds connected communities.
Read more: The Anatomy of a Connected Consumer