What is a Brand Community?
Brand Community Marketing3 MIN READ
A brand community is a group of people that have a relationship with or affinity to a brand.
Most brands don't realize that they have a core group of raving fans that would be more than happy to promote them to friends, family, and followers. And as marketers look for ways to diversify ad spend in 2022, organic growth through brand community marketing is the clear next step.
"Experts estimated that digital ad waste reached more than $100 million between July and December 2021. That waste is predicted to increase by 30% in 2022." - Next&Co
"90% of consumers prefer recommendations from fellow consumers over paid ads." - SEMRush
Influencer Vs Brand Community Marketing
Brand community marketing is different from influencer marketing and for obvious reasons.
Community-driven marketing isn't all about one person with a million (or even 100k) followers; it's a group of like-minded individuals who share values, interests, and opinions. They may not all follow each other on social media, but they're interconnected via word-of-mouth in the real world.
And just like brand communities can be measured by brand affinity, brand advocates are quantified in terms of their natural propensity and desire to evangelize the brand.
So while influencers tend to be defined by their follower counts, it's not uncommon for brand community members to have small or private online presences. In fact, some brand advocates might prefer anonymity, especially if they work in the industry that they represent across their various brand channels. And that's precisely why not all influencers are brand advocates and why not all advocates are influencers.
That said, one of the best ways to build brand community is to equip influential brand fans (i.e. influencers) to become brand community leaders.
The key is to find the right influencers who will be the kind of community leaders who inspire promotional activity among members of their and your audience. This approach to influencer marketing - aka community influencer marketing - is essential to building sustainable brand communities and vice versa.
What Do Brand Communities Look Like Since the Outbreak of COVID-19?
Before a global pandemic, retail was a brick-and-mortar-dominated world with an eCommerce tsunami cresting on the horizon. But everything changed once people grew concerned for their safety, and governments issued lockdown, masking, and capacity requirements.
Oddly, social interactions and consumer spending didn’t decrease - they simply moved online. Brands without a core eCommerce presence found themselves in a difficult position. Without the appeal of physical storefronts, how could they attract their target audiences?
The concept of brand community marketing existed long before COVID-19, but the pandemic forced many industries to adopt this approach with greater intensity. And with social media offering free, new environments for consumers to connect with brands (and vice versa), online word-of-mouth has become the most efficient path to brand growth.
Which Brands Should Leverage Brands Communities?
The simple answer is that any organization that wants to lower its customer acquisition costs and increase customer loyalty should seriously consider creating and boosting brand community marketing efforts.
The more complex answer is that not all brands are optimized for nurturing brand communities.
For example, if your eCommerce business is new, you may not have a large customer base. You might still be in your "proof of concept" stage, where you're iterating your product and in the very beginning stages of building a unique customer experience.
That said, countless startups have used community influencers as brand community leaders to help them refine their product line, generate awareness, and drive sales. But as a fledgling business, you might have difficulty finding the perfect influencer who will promote your products and mobilize a team of advocates on gifts alone.
Another type of brand that may not be ready to nurture a community is one that doesn't track who its customers are and where they come from. In this day and age of data tracking, gathering as much helpful information about your customer is critical. And not every brand understands how essential it is to know their customers and consistently personalize the shopping experience.
For years, seasoned marketers insisted that one couldn't create vibrant word-of-mouth. Like a viral post, brands had to consistently market a great product and wait for momentum to grow.
But in the creator economy age, people leverage social media to come together around like-minded values and pursuits. Brands and products naturally become part of these conversations, and your brand has an opportunity to join those communities in a meaningful way.
Brand community marketing means uncovering your brand fans - whether they be repeat customers, employees, partners, social followers - and activating them as authentic promotors of your products and services.