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