Consumers are more willing to share your brand’s story than ever before, but only if its authentic, useful and ideally, allows for open dialogue.
Communities are the next-generation to Facebook pages and microsites, so building community right can yield you some major loyalty points with your customers, search engines (yeah, SEO boosts, baby), and grow a level of trust and authority that no other marketing strategy can.
In our research, we’ve discovered four elements to community-building and they all happily begin with C:
So, are these community elements just phonetic fun or very vital to building a loyal tribe? Let's dig deeper.
You want people to come, right? For communities, content really is king. Meaningful content lays the foundation and will engage your audience, communicate your story, convey your customer's needs and fuel an effective SEO strategy.
But you don’t have to go it alone. That’s where curation tools and your superfan curators come in…
Curation is two-fold: curating content and curating the community.
Content curation: So much of what’s in our news streams isn’t original journalism, but rather curated, shared or distributed to us via aggregator apps or our niche community. To offer up a great experience to your community, you don’t necessarily have to create reams of fresh, original content. In fact, 95% of people are looking for aggregated news that is multi-sourced, fresh and free. Most of us seek trusted curators to filter out the overload of data and categorize it into topics that matter to us. Plus, we want the option to add our commentary to the mix, while connecting with others of like-mind.
This isn't a free ticket to forsake unique content. Of course you'll need some original content based on your expertise in order to be authoritative, but many companies can’t dedicate to a full-time editorial team. But content curators are your key to winning the content game and building an army of trusted contributors. Which leads us to the next point in curation.
Community curation: The right community platform will provide deep analytics into how your audience is interacting with your content, each other and your brand. Once you know who the superfans are, you can tap into their passion and give them some leeway to curate and create content for you. Yep, I do mean that you'll have to give up some control. Understandably, that terrifies the goodwill out of some companies but with the right guidelines and platform in place, you'll still guide what's published on your behalf with little overwight.
Plus, why not follow the lead of some of the most community-driven brands? Community curation is already being done by companies like Sony, Sephora, LEGO and Harley Davidson.
Identifying and leveraging your superfans can mean finding your best advocates. And they’ll "work" for you because they’re passionate, not because they’re pulling down a paycheck. Since paying them would turn them into employees, you'll want to reward them in non-monetary ways like community notoriety - which will further fuel the flame of curation prowess.
Cultivation is the process of refinement. In this stage, you’ll figure out what matters most to your community members, who’s most involved, how to optimize your content, what rewards are working and how to better leverage your superfan curators - the 1% of your community - for the good of the many.
This step in the process is remarkably fun because it means that you’ve got an active audience. Your analytics will reveal the opoprtuntiies and wins, but what the stats can’t tell you is whether you really “get” your community and whether they sincerely <3 you. Sure, social shares, likes, vote ups, interactions and inbound numbesr will give you an idea, but you’ll need to dig a little deeper. You’ll need to ask for input (polls can help), conduct A/B tests, develop one-to-one relationships with active voices and open the door to actually working with vetted customers.
This is where you ask. You listen. You implement and evolve based on your community’s feedback.
Consumers are more educated and discerning than ever. To win their attention, offering free shipping isn’t going to be enough, nor writing a few informative blog posts, nor making your product new-and-improved.
In the near future, the brands-winning-hearts-and-wallets will be going to companies who will literally give up a little control to their crowd, engage their customers and respond with authentic, positive good-for-all evolutions. Companies that do will be rewarded because a lot of times, people just want to share positive feedback (Global Trust in Advertising Survey, Nielsen). LEGO uses their online communities to produce new ideas for LEGO sets. Now, not only developing loyal customers – a notion that is increasingly hard to come by - but it will make more money (crowd-sourced improved product = more sales).
Its not an easy migration from push marketing to collaborative customer conversations, but it will not only make your brand stronger, more authentic and help you remain competitive for the long-term.