The growth of social media has recently led to greater access to information and to its transparency. Consumers now have the power to search for business and brands before making a decision and pass on their opinion to those around them.
Customers and brand followers have an increasingly more powerful voice, especially on social networks where people are strongly influenced by the opinions of friends and family.
This has caused companies to change their marketing strategy. In this digital age, communication in the form of a monologue, where people blindly accepted the message, has been replaced by dialogue. This interaction and dialogue are easily achieved by building an online community around a business or brand.
Communities are important to foster positive connections and lead community members to interact with each other and with the brand/ business meaningfully.
Why build a community?
Building a community around a brand or business mainly brings an advantage in terms of competitiveness, as well as in terms of adaptability, as communities bring valuable feedback from costumers to the company. If people within a company do not understand the needs of their customers, the risk of developing products or services of no value to their target audience is enormous. Thus, a community allows companies to increase their range of products and services based on their customer's needs, as well as to quickly identify changes in consumer behavior, leading to adjustments in products and offers in order to create value to the customer. In addition, the identification of the client's “pain” leads to a greater capacity for innovation directed to an audience with very specific needs (functioning as a crystal ball for companies).
A community is above all a group of people connected with their interests or something in common. Thus, this relationship building also causes the community to grow and gain greater retention by customers/ community. The creation of real connections between the consumer and the brand promotes the retention and loyalty of customers leaving a door open for references. Consequently, as these references grow, the community also grows, increasing brand prestige as well as contact points (for example, through blogs, forums, and others). The higher the contact points, the more likely the company is to gain new customers and increase its sales.
On the other hand, the stronger a community is, the greater will be the consistency and relevance of the brand, leading therefore to a greater interest in people wanting to collaborate with it.
How to build a community?
The main goal in the creation of communities is to drive or increase the engagement between people/ customers and the brand.
The first step towards building an online community that attracts, involves and keeps the right people in the business/ brand is to understand what drives people to connect with each other.
You must think about what kind of product or service the company sells and what kind of community should support it. There may be inspiration in big brands, such as Nike, and it's important to think beyond the immediate sale. In today's economy of access and choice, a customer preference and fidelity should be seen an essential metric.
The strategy of creating the online community always depends on the market, business model, and goals.
Thus, building a community around a brand/ company is more relevant than ever since it helps companies to obtain and maintain their customers. Above all, it's a great help in the process of integrating a brand into people's daily lives. Companies who do not embrace this challenge may risk losing customers and business. Therefore, when building communities wisely we create a powerful tool.
By Rita Vilaça