Who Should Join Your Brand Community & Why?
Brand Community Marketing5 MIN READ
People are actively looking for ways to connect with one another. Consumer communities are no different.
Brands with longevity are tapping into Community Commerce strategies to attract like-minded buyers and convert them into community leaders. All of these initiatives form the bonds of brand community and equip people within these engaged groups to promote the brand and improve one another's quality of life.
So if your brand is looking to build community, who should you invite into that community?
What is Brand Community Marketing?
A Brand Community is a group of people that have a relationship with or affinity to a brand. These people include customers, employees, social followers, partners, complementary brand customers/followers, and more.
Brand community marketing, then, invites and equips these people to participate in organized campaigns to build greater community.
While your brand is the gel that holds the group together, your community marketing initiatives can't be all about your products. The idea is to add value to the group by promoting values, causes, and lifestyles that match your brand. Additionally, you invest resources into creating safe places for these people to come together and interact.
Brand Community as Part of a Community Commerce Strategy
Community Commerce is a strategy that brings people together around shared values and goals for genuine connection, relevant content, and a more fun and trusted buying experience.
Scaling your brand through authentic connections is critical to driving low-cost, high-ROI momentum. In theory, anyone can make a product or service "better," but nothing replaces genuine relationships. The deeper the relationship, the deeper the trust, and the greater the brand love.
Community Commerce works when brands turn their attention away from traditional acquisition strategies and focus on bringing like-minded buyers together. Brand community is the foundation on which tenured brands become invincible.
Types of Brand Community Members
The vast majority of your brand community will be made up of non-influencers.
While it’s important to focus on equipping your community leaders (aka influencers) to drive participation and results, understanding the different types of community members will help you craft better campaigns.
Anyone outside of your sales team that promotes your brand is an advocate. So technically speaking, every active member of your brand community is a brand advocate.
Most of your brand advocates will be excited, loyal customers. They needn’t have a large social media presence to make an impact and spread lucrative word-of-mouth.
One of the reasons that company culture is so critical is that happy employees become evangelists for your brand, too. That’s why including them in brand community promotions and events (and encouraging them to follow your community influencers) is always a great idea.
Shy Repeat Customers
Too many brands forget this valuable cohort of avid fans. But their loyalty is critical, and they will gladly promote you if you bring them into the fold.
Not every brand advocate is outgoing in their enthusiasm. But the fact remains that if someone keeps spending money with you and follows your community influencers, they are also valuable brand fans. That said, you may not ask them to make a public display, but if you incentivize them, they will drive new customer growth through their extensive network.
Community Influencers (Brand Community Leaders)
As you build out your community, consider that there will be members and there will be leaders. It is not necessary for you to always engage the members directly since they will likely follow directions from those you equip to lead.
These brand community leaders are your partners. And while most of them likely qualify as community influencers, they may prefer to go by a different name/title or fill more than one role. Some brands even create an ambassador program designed specifically for their brand community leaders.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Brand Community?
Word-of-mouth increases someone's willingness to buy by 400%. - 20 Word-of-Mouth Marketing Statistics
Building thriving brand communities will require more time than money.
If you're committed to a brand community approach, word-of-mouth will have fast and record-breaking impact on your ROI.
Only 10% of all purchases occurred without a recommendation by a friend, family member, or influencer. - 20 Word-of-Mouth Marketing Statistics
That said, you will want to budget for free gifts, incentives, and even for hiring community leaders to create content and lead teams. When you leverage brand community to drive growth, you are asking people for a favor, and it's important that you offer something to them for their time.
Non-influencer brand community members are brand advocates. You don't need to pay them. But when you activate them as brand promoters within their small network, one of the best ways to do so is to offer them free gifts and perks.
Brand advocates also love to participate in contests with valuable prizes and discounts. You can easily generate online buzz and participation through these low-cost methods.
The term “affiliate” is broad and can refer to any individual promoting your brand in exchange for a commission. Within the context of brand communities, affiliates are more often known as “brand ambassadors.”
The best way to pay your affiliates is by a commission on sales or some form of performance-based compensation.
Influencers are social media power users who leverage their popularity to guide consumers, raise awareness, or establish trends. It's critical that you only hire influencers that genuinely love your products. Otherwise, endorsements will come across as fake and distasteful.
While a lot of marketers look for influencers with as many followers as possible, most brands' sweet spot is the micro community influencer who maintains a following of between 10,000 and 500,000 followers.
Influencers are professional marketers, and as such, you will need to budget funds to create meaningful campaigns and long–term collaborative relationships. Each influencer rate is different and can be as low as $50 per post or high as a few thousand dollars per month in retainer fees.
Once you identify a community influencer prospect for your brand, prepare to negotiate with that individual to arrive at a reasonable price that suits both your needs.
Like affiliates, brand ambassadors are great for driving sales and conversions. Ambassadors are typically more exclusive than affiliates, though they function in much the same way.
Like affiliates, the best way to pay your ambassadors is by a commission on sales. It’s also a good idea to send regular product gifts to your ambassadors so that they can promote those products more effectively to their friends, family, and followers.
Key Opinion Leaders
A KOL often acts as an industry influencer or creator and maintains an impeccable reputation within their industry. As an expert in their field, they frequently review products candidly and only promote brands they believe in.
How you pay your KOLs depends on whether they operate as influencers or ambassadors. Many will often review your product in exchange for product gifts only. For your long-term relationships, you will want to agree on a compensation structure.
Many use the term “creator” and “influencer” interchangeably, and while there is a great deal of overlap between the two, they are different. A creator leverages their artistic abilities to connect with others online. They have content creation tools, and they know how to use them.
Many creators function as community influencers, but not all influencers are actual creators. In most cases, creators are less inclined to promote brands unless their values align with the brand. But the quality of their content is top-notch, and their followers are highly engaged.
Most creators charge flat rates for their content. It’s best to think of these individuals as contractors because they can usually do what media agencies do (and for a fraction of the cost). That said, every creator rate is different, and you will need to negotiate with them to formalize a partnership.
Cost: Very High
Celebrities may or may not have achieved fame on social media, but they nearly always have a million or more followers. They include macro influencers, pop artists, famous actors, professional athletes, and more.
Because it is challenging for celebrities to connect with their audience members on a personal level, they don’t often function well as community influencers or brand community leaders.
However, strategic use of celebrity endorsements can instantly generate awareness among millions of consumers.
Celebrity partners are by far the most expensive to work with. Additionally, you will work through their agent or talent manager to negotiate a deal. Most celebrity costs start at a few thousand dollars per post or mention.
Above all, every active brand community member should feel a genuine connection to your brand. It's not enough to get that referral sale any more than it's enough that a wanna-be advocate walk away with a free prize.
Consumers can spot inauthenticity from afar. Similarly, brands that energize communities never want for greater reach or higher impressions. And if there's one thing you can count on from the right brand community members, it's that they will always demonstrate their brand love through active conversions and referrals.