What Is Community Marketing And Tips For Implementing Successful Community Marketing Campaigns
Being part of a community is a fundamental need of the humankind. Nowadays, thanks to Social Media, being part of a community is easier than ever. Online communities form the same way offline communities do – around family and friends, around activities, around famous people, around sports, and so on. While, generally speaking, offline and online communities are formed by people who have something in common, brands can also create communities and contribute to people’s sense of belonging. If community marketing is done right, companies gain loyal customers who support and promote the brand. To better understand this type of marketing, let’s take a look at what is, who should do it, and how to do community marketing.
What Is Community Marketing?
Whereas traditional marketing strategies focus on selling products and services to new customers through traditional marketing techniques such as advertising, sales, and promotions, community marketing switches the focus on the consumers and their needs. This type of marketing helps companies to engage with the communities formed around the brand.
Community marketing involves creating and maintaining an engaging brand image that encourages existing customers to interact with the brand and other customers. The communities formed by companies allow consumers to communicate their needs to the brand, to interact with each other, and to receive feedback about their products or services.
Usually, retaining a customer is harder than getting a new one so it is very important to form a good relationship with the customer from the very beginning. Not only that but the brand has to prove that it listens to its customers’ needs and wants. This will make existing customers loyal and it will attract new ones without expensive marketing efforts.
Community marketing is beneficial for both the company and the consumer and can be done online or in-person. Companies receive feedback on their products and their company, while customers feel their opinion is valued by the company.
Community marketing is an essential tool and, in this modern day and age, when people have an online presence on Social Media, it is more important than ever for companies to stay in touch with their customer base. Impersonal relationships between companies and consumers are no longer desired, an effective community marketing strategy can make a difference in the relationship between the brand and the existing customer base. It’s very important to listen to consumers and to give them the opportunity to express themselves. Adjusting the products and developing new ones based on the feedback received from them ensures loyalty but also helps brands to better their products and to come with new ones that can satisfy the consumer’s needs. And all these without spending a huge amount of money on market research.
Community marketing involves creating a better relationship with an organization’s customers and striving towards making them loyal to the brand and there are two types we can talk about: sponsored community marketing and organic community marketing.
Sponsored Community Marketing
Sponsored community marketing involves the brand itself creating and managing the correct social media platforms that allow customers to interact with the brand and with each other. To do sponsored community marketing successfully, the company has to be actively involved in the community: to reply to questions consumers have, to provide information about products, to find ways to make customers loyal to the brand. In this way, the customer becomes an ally of the brand and will promote it online or through word of mouth.
Organic Community Marketing
Organic means people interacting with each other and talking about a brand without the brand creating a platform for conversation. While this is a great thing for a brand since customers will share their experience, will help each other, and will ask and answer questions, there are some concerns for companies as well. If people are not happy with a product, the company can suffer. With this in mind, it is important to monitor the online conversations of people regarding the company’s products or services and to interfere where necessary to fix the problems or answer questions.
Both sponsored and organic community marketing are great ways to foster interactions with consumers and built loyalty and satisfaction but only when used correctly.
Who Uses Community Marketing?
Community marketing can and should be done by any company who wants to develop a great relationship with its customers. However, it is absolutely mandatory for companies that sell products that require updates, maintenance or products that can be somehow confusing for the customers. Companies that sell electronics, cars, technological products or services have to include community marketing into their marketing efforts.
Aside from the type of companies we mentioned above, if you want to increase awareness about your products, build your reputation, and seek to have repeat customers, you have to invest in community marketing. Customers are probably doing the organic part for you already but you have to pay attention, see the conversation, and get involved when something’s not right. Of course, you can get involved when the conversation is positive as well. You can surprise your customers with discounts, promotions, special offers, free products, and other incentives that will make them develop a sense of loyalty towards your brand.
Customers who are brand-loyal will discuss your products with their friends, family, and coworkers and they will support your brand online. It’s essentials to keep this customer base happy. Since they already love your products, customer service is what will make a difference for them so make sure the people working in the customer service department are always polite and helpful. Also, make sure the customer service is able to help the clients with any problem they might have. Another thing you can do to keep these customers happy is to acknowledge their loyalty and to engage in online conversations with them, give them access to special offers, give them the possibility to have access to your launches first, and always ask them for feedback.
While you can count on brand-loyal customers to always buy your products and be involved in the community since they are perceived by other customers as experts, the less involved customers are a little more difficult to deal with since you have to find ways to get them to be more involved. It’s not hard but it requires planning, a good marketing strategy, and the use of traditional marketing techniques such as promotional marketing to make it happen. Create a community where they feel at home and where they can share stories and their experiences. As was stated at the beginning of the article, the sense of community is important for everybody and if you make your customers feel part of a community, they will soon become brand-loyal.
How Community Marketing Works
We already touched on this subject in our previous section but it’s important to talk about other aspects of community marketing as well. Since this type of marketing is unique, in the sense that a company can thrive only doing it, which is rarely possible with other types of marketing, knowing all the details about how community marketing works is very important.
Consumers Want More Than One-Sided Communication And Products
The era of consumers purchasing a product or service and forgetting about a company is over. These days, customers love to share their experiences online while that is in the form of a review, writing SM posts about the products they purchased, sharing their experience with the products in forums or SM groups or using messaging boards, it is important to pay attention to the discussions. Not only that but giving the customers the ability to talk directly to the brand if they want to is required for a good brand-customer relationship. Give the customers the possibility to ask questions and to review your products and make sure you always give them real answers and you are helpful when they experience problems.
Companies Can Get Direct Feedback
Speaking of reviews, while most brands fear bad reviews, it is important to learn what customers think about the products or services they purchased. Whether the feedback is bad or good, it is valuable for the company that can hear the honest customer’s opinions without spending a lot of money on market research.
Reading the feedback is one thing but you have to be proactive too. Don’t get defensive, instead, make sure the customers know you value their opinions and use their feedback to create better products. This effort won’t go unnoticed. When the product development is focused on the customer, you know you’re working on a product that will actually sell.
Organic community marketing happens whether brands like it or not but, when a brand puts effort into creating a community, the company has more control over the conversation and can fix issues easily. When they communicate openly and honestly with their customers and they pay attention to the customers’ needs and demands, people are more likely to talk about the company in positive terms both online and offline. Word of mouth is still important. In fact, it’s more important now than it ever was since people are a click away for the information they want. In terms of online communities, word-of-mouth means shares, positive reviews, and positive mentions. Offline, it means people talking positively about a brand and sharing their positive experience. In both cases, it can mean customers encouraging other people to buy the companies’ products. Keep your current customers pleased and you’ll get new ones without doing anything.
Community Marketing Creates Transparency And Balance
When the communication barriers between a brand and a consumer are no longer there, a great relationship can begin to develop. The more effective you are at the beginning, the easier things will be for you since the brand-loyal customers will help you take care of the community. This also means community marketing will cost less as time progresses and, as a business, you probably want to minimize the cost but maximize the profit. Community marketing is a great way to do this.
Implementing And Developing Community Marketing Campaigns
Now that you know everything there is to know about how community marketing works, it is time to see how you can implement community marketing campaigns for your brand. It’s important to approach the communities in the right way so here are some tips for doing so:
Be Part Of The Conversation
Participate in online conversations without turning every conversation into a sales pitch. People are tired of ads and salespeople. They come online to research, network, interact with other people like them, and share information. Be one of them, which translates to – be helpful and don’t try to sell your products every time you engage with the community.
Be The Expert
Whereas turning every conversation into a sales pitch is not recommended, contributing to the conversation with valuable information definitely is. Your content strategy should include educational articles you can share with the online communities, tips&tricks, examples of how consumers can make the most of a product purchased from your company, and other informative material you find useful. Stay away from marketing jargon and focus on providing valuable resources.
If you want to build a community, you have to let customers open a conversation any time they want. Make sure you always answer their questions, interact with their posts, help them with solutions when they face challenges, and make sure everything is done with a friendly tone of voice. No one wants the typical corporate reply these days.
Your community marketing efforts have to be consistent if you want to notice a difference. Always listen, always reply but, most importantly, always adapt.
Possible Disadvantages of Community Marketing
With the great advantages of community marketing come some challenges or disadvantages as well. A community can build a brand but it can also destroy it. That’s why you always have to be involved and in control. Bad reviews and negative comments are just a part of the challenges you might face. Other things you should be aware of are:
People are more likely to share their negative experiences than their positive ones so negative comments, negative reviews, and even anti-brand communities can exist when people are not satisfied. Make sure you’re aware of the negative mentions and find ways to change the customer’s perception. Good customer service can turn a negative community into a positive one if the brand can take appropriate action to fix the issues.
Brand-loyal customers are important but they can become a burden when their online reputation is not the best or when they attack your other customers through comments. This is when a brand should interfere and moderate the community but this part is not easy. If you moderate too much, you’ll be accused of censorship. If you don’t do it enough, you can upset your customers. Finding the perfect balance is hard but it’s also key for creating more positive experiences than negative ones.
Keeping Customers Engaged
While creating the community, you have to be very careful and to make the consumers feel like they have the same rights as you in the conversation. Otherwise, they will lose interest and they will stop engaging. Finding innovative ways to keep customers engaged is a challenge for sure but, if you can prove that community participation means something, you are on the right path.
Community Marketing Examples
Despite the challenges that will inevitably occur, community marketing is an important communication tool, marketing tool, and sales tool that you most definitely need to use in order to maintain your customer base happy.
To prove you that it can be done successfully, we decided to give you some examples of community marketing done right. These brands managed to turn customers into loyal customers and then into brand ambassadors for their brand.
The motorcycle brand acknowledged the loyalty of their customers and developed it into a community of people that are passionate about the brand and, obviously loyal to the brand. The community built by Harley Davidson consists of the largest motorcycle club in the world and numerous online communities where people can discuss and share their stories. There are online forums, cafes, Facebook groups, and many other places where Harley Davidson customers engage with each other. On top of that, there are travel services and riding gear services available for brand enthusiasts.
Starbucks uses many types of marketing successfully and they excel at community marketing as well. While the company comes up with new drinks every year and their seasonal drinks are always loved by their customers, Starbucks thought it can do more, thus they developed a website that allowed customers to share their ideas. Starbucks always allowed customers to personalize their drinks and everybody who bought a coffee from them knows this but developing a deep interaction with the customers through the website turned the customers into brand-loyal customers. Seeing their favorite drink or their ideal drink idea on the menu brought the customers closer to the brand. Moreover, Starbucks was able to find out what their customers want and they were able to fulfill their needs.