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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Matambo

4 Tips To Building a Community Around Your Brand

Potterheads, Marvel True Believers, Swifties, Apple fanboys, football Ultras and Starbucks fanatics; the companies behind these brands were able to build large communities or cult-like followings around them and have made a massive impact on the success and influence of the individual brands.

Building a community is valuable for any business and can prove very beneficial in the long run. This article will discuss four ways that companies or individuals can build communities around their brands.

What is a Brand Community?

Before going into detail about how to build a community around a brand, we need to establish what a brand community is:

A brand community is the group of customers who invest in the brand beyond the point of the goods/services being sold. This investment comes in the form of emotional connections when customers put their time, money, and interest beyond the point of purchase.

Got a new product launch coming? They will be the first to hear about it and react. Event coming up? They will likely be the first to buy tickets and spread the word. Have a piece of news to announce? They will be the first to engage with it and react swiftly. Want to test new product features? You have a willing pool of participants ready to give you feedback.

It is important to understand that most brands already have a community of people invested in them, your job is to find ways to bring them together and encourage interaction.

Humans are wired for story and community. So by building a community around a brand, you invite potential customers to be part of something bigger, and have more impact together, improving their overall experience of the brand.

Communities also help brands make customer-centric decisions and help spread the word about the brand to other prospective clients. So it well worth it for businesses to invest in building a strong brand community.

How to Build a Brand Community

1. Values and Culture

"People don't buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it"- a Simon Sinek quote that still rings true today.

At our core, we humans crave a sense of belonging. We search for and are drawn to people just like us who see the world the way we do or are interested in the same things as us.

A strong community is built up of people who share the same values, have a common "culture", and are moving in the same direction.

To build a strong community, identify and communicate a clear set of values that will emotionally connect customers to the brand.

Few companies do this as effectively as the Walt Disney Company. Throughout its over 100 year span, Disney has moulded its brand into a full entertainment experience; crafting characters, stories, and live experiences around its brand values of optimism, quality, and storytelling.

The pinnacle of Disney magic lies in their parks, where the community gets to physically live the brand values. Gathering with crowds of wide-eyed enthusiasts to take part in the sights, rides, and sounds of the Disney universe is the ultimate expression of being part of the community.

2. Consistency

Every year, teams play in the championship finals, a new update of hardware and operating systems come out, a new

Consistency is key! Regardless of the goal being pursued, consistency is a valuable skill to master.

The success of the individual or the group requires heavy consistency in terms of time, which explains why many communities are resistant to change.

Be sure to build the routines, daily practices, and consistent behaviours that will be woven into your community. If you commit to producing content every Thursday morning, stick to it and have the content ready to go by the next Thursday.

Consistency is crucial because it builds trust, which is the underlying bond of every social contract. Trust leads to more trust, and understanding how to build it can ultimately enhance the community experience for everyone involved.

An example of this is Apple with their annual WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC), where they showcase their latest innovations in the tech industry. These events are heavily anticipated and heavily attended each year.

Decide what consistent rituals you would like to build into your community, and you're off to a good start.

3. Shared Drive Towards Something Bigger

It should come as no surprise that by nature, humans are selfish creatures. The benefit to the individual has become a crucial aspect of our survival. So for a community to flourish, there needs to be a clear and tangible promise of a positive outcome to the individual.

All members need to think: " If I stick to doing what this community is telling me, I should be ok".

Let's take cryptocurrencies as an example.

If someone invests in cryptocurrencies and their value appreciates, there is a direct financial benefit to the individual who invested.

However, this is only one aspect of it. For added appeal, the value of being part of the community also needs to fit into a bigger picture.

Let's take the cryptocurrency example again for consistency.

As stated, investing in cryptocurrency has the potential to bring an individual financial benefits. But on a macroscale, things are a bit different.

On a macroscale, investing in cryptocurrencies means investing in an alternate and transparent transaction system that cannot be manipulated by big players and hackers. It means shifting power from the banks into the hands of individuals.

Notice the duality? On an individual level, the person reaps rewards. And on a macroscale, they are part of a larger movement.

The best communities are able to both provide value to the individual and have an overarching bigger-than-myself type promise.

4. Make Membership Valuable

The web is full of communities, but why should people care about yours? The following five factors make joining a community valuable to prospective customers:

  • Boundaries: clear divisions between those who belong to a community and those who do not.

  • Emotional safety: openness, vulnerability and intimacy within the community

  • A sense of belonging: the belief that one fits in the group, has acceptance by the group, and a willingness to sacrifice for the group.

  • Personal investment: a feeling that one has earned a place in the group, making membership more meaningful and valuable.

  • A common symbol system: understanding of social conventions to establish belonging. eg. clothing, language, memes.

On the surface, they make sense, right? Your community members need to feel safe sharing their opinion and need to feel like they've earned their spot. The points also emphasise the importance of feeling like an "insider" by understanding the group's social norms.

Here are a few tips on how to build these factors into your community:

  • Establish and enforce defined moderation standards or a code of conduct

  • Limit membership to those who have achieved a certain status (purchased your product or taken a course from you)

  • Encourage the development of memes and inside jokes (memes are the latest evolution in the language of communication)

  • Reward loyal customers- this can be through discounts, exclusives, secret events, sponsorships.

Starbucks is an excellent example of a brand that built a strong community by adding value to its customers. Ranging from its annual #redcupcontest holiday decorating contest to its #psl (pumpkin spice latte) photos every autumn, Starbucks has taken full advantage of its user-generated content to build a community around its brand.

However, its crowing achievement has to be its Starbucks Reward Program. As a reward member, customers earn points by making purchases, playing games, and attending bonus points events.

Customers can then cash the points for free products, or save them for even better rewards. Using its integrated app, customers have access to their rewards on the go. Starbucks even celebrates their community members by offering a free birthday treat to their program members on their special day. Offering personalised rewards like this one help your community members feel connected to your brand. After all, who doesn’t love free coffee?


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