5 tips for building a brand community

Photo by  Mark Lord  for  Waterfront

Photo by Mark Lord for Waterfront

Our recent blog post The Power of Brand Communities looked at how three companies built their engaged communities and the benefits they brought with them. Here are five tips for building a brand community.

1. Give people something to connect over

Some companies will naturally lend themselves to a community more than others. Producing things people are going to want to talk about like shows or films means fan-bases are more likely to pop up. Otherwise, expecting customers to talk about a brand and product alone is pretty unrealistic. However, tapping into communities that already exist and connecting people over things they’re enthusiastic about can be another way to build a brand community. Take Rapha, a cycling clothing and accessories brand who’ve set up a club within the road cycling community.

2. Create a space for the community to exist and thrive

Communities can pop up in various places around the internet but sometimes it’s worth creating a dedicated community space. This could be an online forum or even something as simple as a Slack channel or Twitter group. If there’s an opportunity for the community to exist offline as well, it’s worth taking. Holding events or hosting regular meetups means people can connect in real life too. Sustainable fashion brand Ace & Jig hosts swap parties across the U.S., inviting their customers to come along and trade limited-edition pieces. Fans were already swapping their clothes on Instagram but this gives them a chance to meet up in real life. It reinforces the brand’s sustainable ethos, too.

3. Remember communication goes both ways

Obviously, communities wouldn’t exist without people talking to each other. But brands with strong communities recognize that communication needs to go more than one way. Listening to what fans have to say, acknowledging it, and taking it on board will go a long way in making them feel included. In return, brands should keep their community up-to-date on the latest news or any information they feel like is important for them to know. Beauty brand Glossier has involved fans in the creation of some of their products, asking them what they would want in a moisturizer or cleanser on their blog Into the Gloss and taking user comments into account. When a product couldn’t meet all of the criteria set by fans, they’ve even written back to explain why.

4. Give back to the community

Sometimes, the promise of a brand community turns out to be not much more than a poorly disguised market research exercise and giving back to participants doesn’t reach beyond a loyalty card scheme or entering them into a prize draw for a voucher. To avoid this, brands should make the community something worth being a part of. This could include giving people exclusive content, holding events or offering freebies. Turn fans into insiders and share company updates with them. Let them shape the brand and its products, asking them for their ideas or even hiring some for projects. TheSkimm, a curated daily newsletter tailored to millennial women, has a Skimmbassador programme which rewards fans for referring their friends with items like tote bags and t-shirts. Skimbassadors are also invited to closed Facebook and LinkedIn groups and are offered early access to internships and job opportunities at the company.

5. Remember it takes time

Dedicated communities rarely spring up overnight. A community that’s worth being a part of will attract members and grow over time. Scaling a community too quickly can also be hard to manage, making it easy to for it to lose its initial focus. Also, fixating on the number of members alone isn’t the best measure of a community. A small group of engaged fans can be worth a lot more than hordes of members who aren’t actually active in the community or paying any attention to the brand.