How to build a successful brand community (with examples)
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How to build a successful brand community (with examples)

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

If you’re looking for a way to increase sales, strengthen your connection with customers, and access more insights into your target audience, building a brand community is a good bet. Brand communities have become increasingly valuable in recent years, for a range of reasons.

With a well-designed “community brand”, you can form emotional connections with your target audience, gather insights that help you develop better products, and even increase customer lifetime value.

You don’t need to look far to find examples of how a community benefits business.

Harley Davidson faced bankruptcy before it discovered the benefits of building a brand community. Now, it’s one of the world’s most successful automotive companies. Why? Because Harley Davidson customers feel like they’re part of a globally connected family.

I’ve seen similar results working with companies like Impetus, this brand constantly educates, informs, and guides its audience with valuable content. It’s this content that has helped Impetus earn the loyalty of its audience.

So, how do you build a brand community, and use it to elevate your growth?

Here are my top tips for modern brands.

What is a brand community?

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

Brand community definition

A brand community is business development, and marketing strategy that involves creating a space where people who have an emotional connection with your brand can communicate with you, and each other. Developing a strong community requires a multi-faceted approach.

It’s not enough to simply invest in online forums where your loyal customers can interact. You need a strategy for engaging and growing your community over time.

A thriving brand community can exist both online and offline. For instance, Salesforce has its Trailblazer’s community experience, which includes everything from online courses and webinars to offline events, designed specifically for Salesforce customers.

GoPro has a dedicated online community which combines social media experiences, and branded hashtags, with the GoPro website and blog, online forums, and offline events.

Developing offline and online brand communities can include everything from hiring community managers, to sharing exclusive content with valuable customers, and gathering insights and new ideas from your followers online.

With a brand community, the focus of building your brand becomes about building and strengthening your relationships with customers. You transform your company from just another organization to a crucial partner in your customer’s life.

Why is a brand community important?

Brand communities are one of the best ways to activate your loyal customers and make the most of the advocacy they show for your brand. Customers who are part of a community are more likely to promote your company to customers with similar interests.

One report from McKinsey even found that companies with a thriving online community access more user-generated content they can use to boost brand awareness and recognition.

However, a community brand is more than just a powerful tool for marketing. It can also help you to unlock new opportunities for growth, enhance the customer experience, and increase customer lifetime value.

Just some of the biggest benefits of a strong brand community include:

Greater brand awareness

When you create a brand community, you unify customers already loyal to your brand, and provide them with content and resources they can use to boost brand awareness. Word of mouth and organic sharing within a community can significantly boost your reach, while reducing your marketing costs.

Often, community members become mini brand ambassadors, circulating information on your behalf. Fresh Student Living, for example, gives community members access to useful content that they can share with other students, to drive customers back to the service.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

Increased brand loyalty

As mentioned above, a successful brand community makes it more likely customers will stay loyal to your brand. Customers are often searching for a sense of belonging. If you can provide this with your community brand experience, you’re more likely to retain your customers.

Just look at how the Harley Davidson’s “HOG Group” keeps customers loyal with access to exclusive content, event experiences, and unique membership benefits. All these factors have led to a significant increase in Harley’s long-term customers.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

Insights into opportunities for growth

A brand community gives you a way to connect with your customers and gather valuable feedback from them on a regular basis. Rather than relying exclusively on insights taken from your marketing and sales data, you can find out what customers are looking for.

In communities, customers share information about their pain points and challenges, goals, and requirements. This can even help power your product development strategy. For example, Lego encourages customers to submit ideas for future Lego kits with their community.

These ideas often transform into new products for the brand, expanding the company’s collection, and giving customers a sense of “ownership” over Lego’s growth.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

Improves customer experience

Listening to your community and customer feedback doesn’t just pave the way for new product development. It also significantly improves the customer experience. If you can show your customers that you’re listening to their insights, and acting accordingly, they’ll feel respected by your brand.

Online communities can even help with crisis management. If your company faces a problem, such as backlash from a negative press release, you can talk to your community, share your side of the story, and get their help in protecting your brand equity.

Communities can even give you insights into potential brand disasters before they happen. As an example, when Apple saw its community members complaining about the battery life of their products, they created content sharing top tips for maximizing your device’s power.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

How to build a community for your brand

Now you know why a brand community, and brand community marketing strategies are so valuable, you can begin building your own strategy for success.

The good news is that while developing a thriving brand community takes time, it’s often simpler than it seems. There are likely plenty of people out there who already love your brand. All you need to do is find a way to rally them together and keep them engaged.

Step 1: Define your community brand

If you want to build a successful community around your brand, you first need to know everything there is to know about your brand identity. This goes beyond simply identifying what your company sells, or what its logo should look like.

You’ll need to identify:

  • Your target audience: Who are the specific group of people who can benefit most from your products and services? What are the characteristics of your current brand advocates, and what do they appreciate most about your organization?
  • Your brand voice and personality: How do customers view your company, based on your marketing messages and tone of voice? Red Bull positions itself as an inspirational partner for its customers, encouraging customers to think outside of the box.
  • Brand mission and vision: What do you want to accomplish with your company? What do you want to be known for, and what are your core values? As an example, our client Abri’s mission is to provide everyone with a safe place to call home.
How To Build A Successful Brand Community

Identifying your core brand attributes will ensure you can identify what community should do for your customers. Remember, the best brand communities are there to serve, support, and delight their customers.

Step 2: Define key goals and metrics

Next, you’ll need to determine what you want to achieve with your offline or online brand community. Is your focus exclusively on increasing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty? Do you want to build a community that gives you insights into product development ideas, like Lego?

How will you measure the benefits of a brand community based on your distinct goals? For example, if you’re trying to boost social interaction and engagement, you might track how many customers attend community events, and respond to your polls and questionnaires.

If you just want to educate and inform your customers, you can track how many people use your community resources, and how effective they are at reducing customer service contact rates.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

Here are some of the common goals you can aim for with a brand community:

  • Educating and informing customers, to improve customer satisfaction rates.
  • Increasing lead generation and reducing marketing costs with word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Improving brand equity with positive reviews and feedback.
  • Driving customer-driven decisions with community insights.
  • Increasing customer lifetime value from a select group of customers.

Step 2: Dedicate resources to your community

Successful brand communities rarely thrive on their own. Most of the time, you’ll need a team of experts responsible for nurturing community engagement, collecting insights, and providing the members of your brand community with content.

Based on your community goals and objectives, ensure you have enough resources allocated to your initiative. If you’re trying to improve your reputation, you might work with a brand strategist to help you develop content that improves your brand’s authority and reputation.

If you’re trying to improve customer loyalty, you might need help from a developer designing a loyalty program or referral strategy for your campaign.

Most brand communities will also need access to sales, marketing, and customer service specialists, who can distribute your brand’s content, listen to feedback, and support both existing and potential customers.

As an example, Apple has its “Genius” team to help support its community.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

Step 4: Choose a brand community platform

Next, you’ll need a “home base” for your brand community. One option is to simply leverage your existing website. You can host a community experience on your site, sharing content, and even creating your own membership and forum experiences for customers.

Lululemon offers an excellent insight into how this strategy can work with their community-focused site. The good thing about this strategy is that you can easily collect first-party data, increase time spent on your site, and boost branding consistency.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

Other options include:

Designing or using an existing forum

A forum is a great space for community members to talk about shared interests and connect with your company. Spotify has a dedicated forum where customers can talk about both music, and experiences with the platform.

Alternatively, you could build a great brand community using a platform like Reddit.

Social media platforms

There are plenty of ways to manage and leverage your community on social media. One option is to create a social media group, on channels like Facebook or LinkedIn.

Another option is to transform your existing social media accounts into a community experience, by highlighting your customers and using a branded hashtag to collect user-generated content, like #AColorStory.

Affiliate and reward programs

Another way to leverage your brand community is by creating a dedicated program or mobile app. Starbucks builds a strong sense of community among customers with its loyalty app, which offers access to rewards to loyal customers.

Affiliate programs can also give you a way to reward your customers whenever they recommend your brand’s products to potential customers.

Third-party community platforms

Third party community platforms give you all the tools you need to manage your communities, built in. On Slack, you can create a community environment with exclusive access to content, and split groups into channels based on their interests.

Step 5: Engage with and delight your brand community

The success of any brand community lies in the experience you give to your members. Ensuring you consistently engage and support your members is key to maintaining their loyalty.

Fortunately, there are a lot of great ways to engage and delight your tribe, such as:

Answering and asking questions

Asking your customers questions about their experience, using polls and surveys to collect insights, and even responding to customer queries all boost the community experience.

These strategies help you to serve your customers and make sure they feel heart, while gathering feedback you can use to power growth.

Creating tailored experiences

Designing community-focused experiences, like exclusive events, educational sessions, webinars, and games is another great way to boost community engagement.

You can use your community platform to share access to exclusive experiences, or you can create a unique experience using an affiliate or rewards program.

Sharing exclusive content

Providing access to exclusive content makes your community members feel special. If they’re the only people who can attend live events, or access specific guides and downloads, they’re more likely to feel rewarded.

You could even consider sharing access to exclusive freebies, trials, sales, and new products.

For an example of a company that masters community engagement, check out Sephora’s community website, where the company runs competitions, invites customers to test and review products, and answers common questions.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

Step 6: Track the results and optimize your strategy

Finally, based on the goals you set at the beginning of your community branding strategy, the last stage is to track your results, and optimize your campaigns.

Pay attention to how your brand community is benefiting you with:

  • Access to more loyal customers with a higher customer lifetime value.
  • Increased leads and traffic to your website.
  • A stronger brand reputation, reach and awareness.
  • Insights from proprietary data and customer feedback.
  • Reduced pressure on your support, sales, and marketing teams.

Pay close attention to how your community evolves over time. Listen to the feedback shared by your community members to ensure you can constantly improve their experience. Find out whether certain social initiatives, like exclusive competitions and polls boost your results.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to new community building strategies, provided you maintain consistency in how you communicate with customers and present your brand.

Brand community marketing: Top tips

After working with numerous companies who have developed their own community experiences, I’ve picked up a few tips.

Here’s my advice for making the most of your brand community:

Engage with members constantly

Engaging your brand community goes beyond simply sharing fresh content regularly. Featuring user-generated content in your campaigns, hosting unique events, and offering access to tangible community benefits can boost your results.

Don’t forget to extend engagement to the real world too, with workshops, meetups, and exclusive brand events, like Salesforce does with its Salesforce community lessons.

Make your community accessible

Make it easy for customers to become a part of your community. If you’re hosting the experience on your site, make it easy to find via product pages, the home page, and your blog.

Guide customers through the sign-up experience, and consider offering an “onboarding experience”, like Sephora does with its community getting started guide and articles.

Promote your community

Draw attention to your community in as many places as possible. Highlight it on your website, use branded hashtags on social media, and include links on your email marketing campaigns.

Ask influencers and ambassadors to help you promote your community and highlight the benefits of getting involved to new customers.

Ensure strategic alignment

An effective brand community requires more than just a great marketing team. Your entire business needs to be aligned around creating a sense of community for your customers. Harley Davidson retooled its entire organization with a focus on community spirit, not just its marketing efforts.

Put the customer experience first

A community can help boost your conversion and customer retention scores. However, this is only true if you deliver an amazing experience to your customer base. Pay attention to the feedback you get from members of your brand community.

Listen to their suggestions, and always put their needs first.

Give your community some freedom

While it’s important to have some control over your brand community, don’t restrict your customers too much. If you limit what customers can talk about and share, then this can harm their experience with your brand.

Examples of brand community success

Learning how to build a community for your brand could be one of the best things you do this year. This is particularly true now that customers are looking to build deeper, emotional connections with brands.

For an insight into how effective community branding can be, lets look at some examples.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

1. Seraphine

For my first example, I wanted to draw attention to a company the team at Fabrik recently worked with on their product branding strategy. Seraphine is more than just a manufacturer of maternity clothing and accessories, its an innovator in its field.

The company creates products specifically based on the feedback it gathers from its customers, such as its intuitive Caripod baby carrier. The brand builds its community in a range of ways, publishing its own educational blog posts for community members, and offering exclusive discounts to loyal buyers.

It also has an incredible social media presence, where it promotes user-generated content, and even publishes unique interviews with specialists.

The company even allows customers to ask experts questions in real-time, boosting engagement levels, and gaining insights into buyer pain points and priorities.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

2. Gymshark

Currently one of the fastest-growing fitness apparel companies in the world, Gymshark’s incredible success is based heavily on its community brand. Using their blog as a central hub for community engagement, Gymshark shares real insights from existing customers and fitness experts.

The brand also posts tutorials, tips, and how-to videos on social media. This has helped to position it as the go-to source for heath and fitness guidance. The company even works with influencers and ambassadors, who act as valuable advocates for the Gymshark community experience.

What’s more, they’re constantly innovating with new ways to engage their community, running competitions online, pop-up shops in-person, live classes, and demonstrations. By promoting and growing their community both online and offline, Gymshark has achieved phenomenal growth.

They even use their community as a way to source affiliates and ambassadors for their brand, who can help them increase sales.

How To Build A Successful Brand Community

3. Starbucks

Finally, I couldn’t talk about the power of community brand development without mentioning Starbucks. This is a company that has been focused on community development for years now. Every Starbucks social media channel encourages community engagement.

The company regularly creates hashtag campaigns to gather user generated content, and showcases posts shared by customers on platforms like Instagram.

They even run regular competitions, like the #RedCupContest during the holidays. As I mentioned above, Starbucks also has a fantastic loyalty program, designed to keep customers engaged. Every time a customer purchases something through the Starbucks app, they earn points.

These points can later be redeemed for free products and gifts. The result is an active community who consistently buys products from Starbucks and helps promote the brand.

Create a thriving brand community today

Learning how to build a brand community can seem like hard work. There’s more involved in this process than simply creating a forum where customers can communicate. You need to create a powerful brand and share your values consistently with your audience.

You’ll also need to find ways of regularly engaging and activating your community members. The good news is that a community brand does pay off.

When you weave community spirit into the heart of your brand, you enhance customer experience and loyalty, reduce marketing costs, and boost brand awareness.

If you need help designing a brand customers want to get involved with, contact Fabrik today, to learn how we can help you build the ultimate community brand experience.

Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.

Alyssa Omandac
Content manager
Alyssa Omandac
Content manager
Alyssa is a regular contributor to Brand Fabrik, covering topics from the role of social media in marketing and branding to the importance of search engine optimisation, self-promotion, and building one's own personal brand.

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