We Long to Belong — Why Community Is the Last Great Marketing Strategy
There’s no question technology continues to move at warp speed, especially most recently in the area of artificial intelligence, as we all know. This is enough to make most marketers’ heads spin. It’s really not humanly possible to try and ‘keep up’ with the rapid evolution, although some marketers will go crazy trying!
But what about the consumer? Where are they in this dizzying world of lightning-fast technological changes?
Although tech is moving at warp speed, fundamentally human beings have not changed all that much. When it comes to relationships between companies and customers, we as consumers want to know that we matter.
We never want to be treated like ‘just a number on a list.’ We want to feel important and valued by the brand, and like they genuinely care about us.
Yet social media, and now AI, is making us more disconnected than ever before in history.
What can marketers do to leapfrog the competition in this whirlwind world?
The answer is simple: strive to authentically incorporate community-driven marketing into your marketing strategy at every opportunity.
Community Is Queen
One of the quotes I’m most known for in the world of social media for well over a decade now is, “Content is King but engagement is Queen and she rules the house.” However, in the past six months or so, I’ve changed my tune. You see, with not only organic reach declining, engagement rates are now declining too across most of the major social platforms.
Sure, there will always be outliers who manage to achieve wonderfully ‘viral hits’ with some posts. But, on average, engagement rates are declining.
So, what’s more important than trying to woo your followers to engage with your every social media post is building a solid community that people feel compelled to join. Hence, I’ve adjusted my popular quote to the following: “Content is King but community is Queen and she rules the house.”
Hone These All-Important Soft Skills
Hone your soft skills — and those of your entire team — and lean into building community like never before.
Soft skills are vital in today’s world. Soft skills include deep listening, compassion, empathy, and reading between the lines. Plus, making people’s day by using their first name, going the extra mile, solving their problem, and/or paying them an authentic compliment.
When you and your team clearly value your customers, prospects, and audience at large, it shows in all that you do online.
Add the Personal Touch
People don’t do business with an office building, a logo, or a company sign. I’ve always said whether you’re in the B2B or B2C sector, it’s all P2P: People-to-People.
Brands wanting to adopt a community-first strategy should look to humanize, personalize, and customize the interactions with their customers, whether that happens in a private or public forum.
Make sure you have real people representing your brand. For example, Canva does a great job with this in Canva Design Community, the company’s popular private Facebook group with 300,000 members. Several of the group moderators have their own public Page (not personal profile) in their name, such as ‘Charmaine from Canva’ and ‘Ed from Canva.’ These team members are so personable and even post helpful and welcoming videos of themselves on camera in the group.
When engaging in public or private social chats, always use people’s first names when interacting with your online community. A person’s first name is the sweetest-sounding word in their entire vocabulary. It feels more informal and even intimate, in a way, to address people by their first name.
Equally, ensure your community managers and moderators also sign off posts and comments with their first name. I see some brands’ social media pages where community managers sign off with their initials, but I feel that’s very impersonal. Signing off with your first name goes a long way to bridging the digital connection gap and building virtual rapport. Social Media Examiner does a good job with this on their Facebook Page; you always know who's posting and who's commenting from their team.
Remember, social media managers and community managers are often the very first point of contact for public-facing communications. Any time you’re engaging with someone online, you’re the voice, the face, and the name of your brand, even if there are dozens of people on your team. That’s where the soft skills of deep listening, compassion, empathy, and understanding come in — people will remember your brand when you use those skills to shape the way you interact with them online.
Create a Movement
We especially love to belong to communities where our fellow members and the brand have shared values. And, ideally, where the business is making a difference on the planet and pursuing a sustainable mission, if possible.
Brands can build long-lasting relationships with customers when there is a single, mission-driven focus where people feel compelled to join. Ideally, you want your prospective community member to say, “There are so many people here that are just like me, I feel like I belong here!”
A wonderful example of this is Daybreaker, an organization founded in 2013 by Radha Agrawal that brings people together in iconic locations around the world for morning dance parties (no alcohol is ever served). In 2018, Radha became the bestselling author of Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life.
On a similar note, my longtime friend and colleague Mark W. Schaefer recently published his tenth book, Belonging to the Brand: Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy. Schaefer states, “Every trend is aligning to make NOW the time for a community-based business model that provides both economic and social benefits.” And, “Community is good for companies, and it’s good for customers. A mountain of research shows how belonging to a brand community enhances a person’s self-esteem, self-identity, and pride.”
Public vs. Private Communities
We can think of communities in two categories. There are public communities, such as all the people you engage with publicly on your Facebook business page, Instagram, Twitter, etc. There are no ‘walls’ around this community and anyone can observe or join in the conversations.
Then we have private communities such as closed Facebook groups or LinkedIn groups.
Private communities can also easily be housed on third-party platforms that solely focus on all the most powerful community features. These include Mighty Networks (my personal favorite), Tribe, Circle, Hivebrite, Disciple, and many more.
We’re also seeing a growth in group chat applications. Facebook is really pushing its Community Chat feature inside of groups which is for group members who want to go deeper with certain topic discussions. I would caution against using this feature too liberally, though. Other private community chat forums include Telegram, Discord, or WhatsApp.
In summary, community-driven marketing can help deepen brand loyalty and trust, which then increases customer retention and customer lifetime value. It can also build word-of-mouth; the happier people are with you and your product, the more likely they are to share their experience with others.
Even if a customer is having trouble or something goes wrong, they’ll remember the support they received from your company as a valued community member.
I believe so passionately in the power of community, I’ve dedicated an entire module to this topic in my upcoming Social Media Strategist Certification program in partnership with the AWAI. Session #7 of the 10 LIVE sessions will be on how to build a thriving community of people who love you and love to buy from you!
Spend just 35 days training with me, and you can be up and running as a well-paid Social Media Strategist, with the skills to be making $1,500 … $3,000 … even $5,000 a month from every client you take on.
Check out ALL the details on my new live training program here. I’m totally looking forward to this!
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