Guide to Community Marketing

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A Complete Guide to Community Marketing in 2021

Posted on 11/23/2021

Learn all about community marketing, including what it means today, its benefits and disadvantages, and the best strategies and examples for successful community engagement. 

Long gone are the days where marketers could rely on advertising campaigns to sustain their businesses. In the fierce competition and supersaturation of marketing messages, community engagement is emerging as a sustainable and successful strategy for brands. 

But what exactly is community marketing? What are its benefits and disadvantages? How do you go about developing a community marketing strategy? 

This post outlines a complete guide to community marketing in 2021, helping you create a long-lasting community around your brand. 

Community marketing meaning

Community marketing is a strand of marketing focusing on connecting a brand with a group of people sharing similar interests, affinities, and values. Alongside shared passions, the cornerstone of communities is a feeling of belonging and emotional connection. 

Communities are nothing new, but the definition of communities has evolved from the traditional concept referring to a group of people living in the same geographical area. Indeed, the virtual world has propelled communities to be formed and thrive without any need for in-person interactions. 

Nowadays, communities can exist in online forums, social media, blogs, podcasts, or a myriad of other digital platforms. 

Creator: ma_rish,  Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto


Community marketing contrasts with more direct marketing tactics like advertising. Specifically, it engages with people more unobtrusively and conversationally. Although brands involved in community marketing closely align with the topics discussed in communities, the emphasis is placed on helping one another, sharing valuable content, giving recommendations, and talking about personal experiences. 

At this point, we must make an important distinction. Brand-oriented communities are different, as they comprise consumers who coalesce around a specific brand because they admire it. The archetypal example of a brand community is Harley-Davidson, which has a legion of fans who love the motorcycle brand. 

What are the components of community marketing

Communities can vary widely in their level of cohesion (proximity between members), interactivity (frequency of communication between members), and specialization (niche theme or more general focused). In that vein, some communities may be entirely focused on the socialization of members while other communities on knowledge sharing. 

However, the standard components characterizing community marketing initiatives are:  

  1. A group of people with shared interests and passions 
  2. An intrinsic sense of belonging and connection to something bigger than the individual 
  3. A sense of caring for members of the community driving people to come to each others’ help
  4. Shared spaces for interaction, or a set of shared practices that bring the community together and strengthen its culture 

Community Marketing - Illustration of People Interaction with Social Media
Credit: Pixabay

How do you develop a community marketing strategy?

Some of the critical factors driving communities’ success and increasing satisfaction among members are the perceived usefulness, trust, and commitment.

Additionally, a sense of loyalty and emotional connection is crucial, whereby members feel companionship with fellow members, share information regularly and recommend membership to other people. 

Based on these factors, we outline the essential steps for developing a community marketing strategy. 

1. Define purpose and focus of the community 

At the outset, a community marketing strategy must include a clear definition of purpose and focus. This definition is the foundation upon which community marketers can develop activities with a clear direction. 

For example, a community’s purpose could be connecting marketing professionals working in the hospitality sector. In that way, prospective members have an idea of what to expect and can decide whether joining the community is likely to be beneficial for them or not. 

In turn, activities aligned with a community’s stated purpose and delivering on its objectives shape and enhance members’ satisfaction and commitment levels. 

2. Build trust and authority

In communities where the exchange of information is a central component, building trust is vital. Members expect information to be accurate and reliable and not biased towards commercial objectives. 

Therefore, community marketing strategies should avoid spam at all costs, as this can highly damage the reputation and perceived authenticity. Community owners can share information from reputable sources such as media publications or trade journals and leverage opinion leaders with substantial experience in the field. 

3. Encourage interaction networking between members.

Importantly, community marketing strategies should include the creation and promotion of spaces for interaction among members. In the virtual world, this can be social media platforms like LinkedIn, messaging channels such as Slack or Discord, or forum websites like Reddit. 

In any case, community marketers should consider sustaining interactions with members consistently, including daily introductions of new members, quizzes and polls, and relevant l materials or articles. 

Additionally, a community marketing strategy should also comprise networking between members to reinforce an innate sense of bonding. Marketers can achieve this through online networking events or a networking roulette where members are connected serendipitously in 1:1 meetings. 

4. Host community events

Hosting events is a great way to bring a community together and strengthen emotional connections between members. 

Indeed, events are spaces to discuss relevant topics and brainstorm ideas but also unique environments where long-lasting relationships can be formed. Events can foster interaction and engagement leveraging tools such as live chats, breakout rooms, or gamification. As a result, events build communities of loyal attendees around them who come back year after year. 

Furthermore, virtual and video-driven events maximize accessibility and reach while enabling quality interactions and meetings, bringing human emotions to the fore. Whether it’s the body language, the facial expressions, the tone of voice, video-driven events allow community members to build trust and communicate at a level beyond messaging on online forums. 

Event Profs Communities: The Best Practices for Successful Community Building

Discover the best practices for community building.

Pros and cons of community marketing

Pros of community marketing 

1. Social Connection 

The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the need to lock down and keep social distancing, has highlighted social connection as an undeniable human need. 

Communities, particularly those focused on bringing people together, answer this need perfectly by providing safe environments where people can share relatable stories, talk about their passions and support each other in overcoming challenges. 

2. Customer Empowerment and Information

Community marketing puts customers first, creating spaces where people feel comfortable sharing their opinions and personal experiences. As a result, it gives voice and value to each person and their experiences while removing the logic of treating people as just another number for a business.  

In addition, community marketing is a valuable source of information covering a potential customer base. Soliciting customer reviews or getting responses on customer satisfaction surveys is a challenging endeavor. In that light, communities allow brands to understand customer sentiment better and gather feedback on how they can improve products and services. 

3. Loyalty and long-term sustainability 

Relying on ongoing advertising campaigns to boost sales is not the best position for an organization to be in, especially when it comes to building economic sustainability in the long term. 

On the other hand, community marketing can count on loyal members who are driven by a shared passion and have an emotional attachment with a brand that goes beyond a transactional operation. 

4. Authenticity 

Community marketing brings a level of authenticity and honesty that other strategies can hardly attain. Indeed, the conversations are started, shaped, and driven by people, not by the brands with ulterior motives. 

Some of the best communities thrive on members building their own relationships (not mediated by brand intervention) and user-generated content that is truly helpful to their everyday experiences. 

Cons of community marketing 

1. Time and effort 

Community marketing does not bring overnight results. It takes considerable time and effort to build cohesive communities that include proactive members and community champions. 

And, community marketers have to be continuously involved in communicating information, listening to members’ opinions, devising appropriate environments and activities for interaction, and attracting new members. 

2. Difficult to track the impact 

Tracking the business impact of a community marketing strategy can be tricky. Many of the most significant and positive effects of communities are on brand awareness and reputation. These are subjective metrics, and it may be hard to justify community marketing in a commercial sense, particularly in the early stages of the process. 

3. Loss of Control 

At their core, communities encourage members to express their opinions freely, which comprises views about brands and specific products. Unavoidably, some of the ideas will not be positive, and members can bring negative reviews. 

At times, community marketing relinquishes brand and industry-related narratives away from the company and towards customers, which marketers may not always be comfortable with. 

Community marketing examples

Duolingo Communities 

Duolingo is one of the most renowned and successful language-learning apps worldwide. Distinctively, Duolingo offers learning materials and educational exercises but also a platform where communities of language learners can discuss their doubts, struggles, and tips in learning a new language. 

Moreover, Duolingo provides a platform for fluent tutors to host events organized around small groups for better speaking practice and personalized feedback. These events are great examples of environments where community members can meet, bond, and prosper in their learning objectives. 

Adidas Runners

Adidas Runners is an international community, including people from different backgrounds united by a love for running and a desire to become better. 

Smartphone Showing  App Adidas Runners BErling Community

The unifying thread bonding the community is pushing personal boundaries and achieving individual growth through running. The core qualities characterizing members and the community as a collective are guidance, support, motivation, and inspiration. 

On the digital front, ambassadors provide tips, set up challenges, and stream virtual workouts to encourage members and help them advance in their journey of personal growth. 

EventLand

EventLand is a community of creative, supportive, and outstanding event profs from all over the globe launched in February of 2021. 

To achieve community growth and engagement, EventLand focused on content creation, interaction, and participation, with a private LinkedIn group, a monthly newsletter for members, and a podcast

Community ambassadors interact with members daily, share interesting content, introduce new members, and create polls to gauge opinions among members. Clear guidelines and an effective approval flow have proved key elements to attract the right audience that is likely to benefit from the community.  

The community has also achieved significant engagement with exclusive rewards and perks, like swag bags, tickets to events like South by Southwest (SXSW), and discounts. 

Conclusion 

Community marketing can take many forms and has endless benefits, but it’s not always obvious how one gets started and implements successful strategies. To help you, we have outlined a range of strategies and illustrated this type of marketing with some best-in-class examples of community engagement. 

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