In 30 seconds:
- A successful brand community is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a non-negotiable. We’re showing you how to do it right.
- Sound advice from a community expert. Our TikTok Community Manager, Channelle Mandekar, is unveiling her top strategies to gain a thriving community.
- What does the future hold for brand communities? We’ve got predictions for 2024.
Building a thriving brand community in 2024 isn’t optional. It’s pivotal.
In an age where people are becoming more and more sceptical about traditional advertising, cultivating genuine bonds and the right relationships with your audience is fundamental. If you’re not building or maintaining your brand community in the right way, you’re falling behind.
This year, nine in 10 social media marketers said that online community building was absolutely essential. But to achieve a successful brand community in 2024, you need to be doing more than just replying to comments.
You need a strong brand community strategy that taps into your audience’s needs and bridges the still-wide gap between brands and consumers. It’s about the long game as well as the short to curate a strategy that will win over the hearts and minds of your audience year after year.
Lucky for you, we have our own expert on the case.
Channelle Mandekar, our TikTok Community Manager, is providing future predictions, top tips and must-follow advice on brand communities. So listen up. Getting it right now, is make or break.
What is a brand community?
Put simply, a brand community is a group of people who have a shared interest (and are emotionally invested) in a brand and its products. Essentially, it is a circle of consumers that care about the brand itself and the content it creates beyond just caring about buying from them.
Beyond this, a brand community is a tremendously powerful tool. But only if you know how to harness it.
If you’re starting from scratch, then this can seem daunting, but you may be surprised to hear you probably already have a community in the works. If your brand is on social media, you are likely in the process of nurturing your online brand community. Sixty per cent of the world’s population uses social media, and over one in five of these users have joined or participated in an online community in the past three months.
Social media is an active playground of communities and brands need to tap into it.
Brands acing their community marketing
Looking for inspiration on your community marketing?
Understanding how to build a thriving community is one thing, but seeing it in action is a whole other ballgame.
There is no one-size-fits-all. There are, however, tried and tested methods that have worked brilliantly for specific brands on social, and we’ve put them all in one place. This comprehensive report deep dives into the best brand communities out there and how the companies behind them drive action from their group of customers.
To see these successful brands in action, take a look at our latest report – The Top Brands Going Community-First On Social.
What are the benefits of a brand community?
1. It builds authentic bonds
Brand communities are all about sharing and receiving. Consumers become part of a brand community not just because they enjoy the brand’s content but because they want to actively engage with like-minded others.
The challenge for brands is building a community that is authentic and genuine.
Channelle is hot on this element of community building: “Genuine interactions are crucial. Consumers crave real experiences and hold brands accountable for their content.”
This accountability is the key driver for thriving brand communities. You simply can’t be too salesy without your community calling you out on it. If you bring valuable content and interact with people genuinely, you’ll see the right results. Plus, your brand awareness metrics will get a boost due to user-generated content.
UGC is the secret ingredient to building brand confidence at a speedy rate. People find user-generated content to be 35% more memorable than content from professional marketers, and a massive 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions.
In a similar vein, brand communities also encourage word-of-mouth marketing. When someone is involved in a thriving community, it will be a part of their own conversations and can spur organic recommendations. Brands that offer positive experiences receive three times more word-of-mouth recommendations.
2. It increases brand loyalty
Acquiring a new customer is five times as expensive as retaining an existing customer. Brands need to focus on customer loyalty to maximise their marketing efforts. However, this is now tougher than ever.
Channelle adds: “Customers prefer brands that resonate with them emotionally. This emotional bond increases loyalty and ensures they stay with the brand over competitors.”
Seventy-five per cent of consumers say they’re more likely to be loyal customers to brands that understand them on a personal level. It’s that genuine emotional connection that keeps them coming back for more. Setting up a loyalty programme or rewards programme, or maybe just giving early access to promotional content, simply isn’t enough. Brands need to work harder than ever, understand their brands personally, and stay consistent with their communication to ensure customer loyalty.
Building a successful brand community helps with this. Why? It’s inherently engaging, meaning customers are motivated to stay. It nurtures relationships and boosts emotional connections.
One of the main brand community characteristics is that it makes people feel a part of something greater. Fully connected customers are 52% more valuable, on average, than those who are just highly satisfied. What does “fully connected” mean? These are customers who feel emotionally invested in the brand and deeply affiliated with its identity and purpose.
One study shows that 89% of consumers state they remain loyal customers to a brand if they share the same values as them. Your brand community space offers the chance to talk about your brand’s values and connect with these consumers on another level.
We mentioned above that customers with great brand experiences will provide valuable referrals. And that’s what your brand community should essentially provide – an experience that makes customers want to stick around.
3. It helps you gain valuable insight
An active brand community will not only help your target customer understand your brand, but it will also help you better understand your customers. The interactive nature of brand communities presents an opportunity for vital insights into your consumer’s behaviour, desires and concerns. This is the golden ticket to a brilliant brand community.
Harley Davidson once faced extinction. How did they change this? Their committed strategy to the brand community. Harley conducted in-person community outreach events with their own employees as event staff. Executives spent time with customers, getting to understand their needs and wants, and responded directly to these. Today, Harley Davidson is worth over $3.71 billion.
Brands like Starbucks and Apple also followed suit in community-building initiatives. Leveraging the power of user-generated content to foster community, Starbucks has maximised engagement through initiatives like their Starbucks Reserve Roastery branches and yearly #RedCupContest for holiday cup designs. With their “Today at Apple” initiative, Apple enthusiasts can converge at store locations to gain inspiration, acquire new knowledge, and connect with fellow creatives. These are all brands that know how to foster communities.
Harley Davidson used offline, in-person events. But companies can now conduct customer research from anywhere. The online world is where marketers can observe their audiences to understand how to communicate with them better and provide more relevant brand experiences and offerings. So, where can you find these observations?
Some brands use community platforms like Discord and Twitch, but on other social media platforms, there is a massive opportunity to jump into conversations with your customers consistently. Your brand has access to a whole online world full of consumers ready to be a part of your community.
Brand community marketing on social media
Creating a strong community around your brand is now more accessible than ever. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Social media marketing initiatives are definitely the way forward for establishing and growing a brand community. Still, with so much social media content out there, you need to know the right techniques to get your target audience engaged and keep them interested.
Here’s the other hurdle, then: how can companies use the community-building platforms available to them to authentically leverage this existing hunger for internet discussions into enthusiastic engagement around their brand?
One answer is to create your own dedicated corner on these platforms. This could be through Instagram, TikTok, a Facebook group or even a Discord server. If you want to know more about how to harness Discord specifically, read our article on Discord Marketing.
The typical social media user actively uses or visits an average of 6.7 different social platforms each month. So, there are multiple channels that you can hone in on to build your community.
Niche communities on TikTok
Channelle is our TikTok community manager, and with this experience, it’s clear how much of a community platform this video-first app is. TikTok is a breeding ground for niche, powerful communities and brands have more opportunity than ever to tap into these.
This community focus is central to TikTok’s proposition. In fact, they even say, “every single time a TikToker opens the app, CommunityToks that align with who they are, what they love, and how they spend their time are guaranteed.” Usually, such communities can be found via a hashtag. You’ve likely heard of them before. Examples include BookTok and SkaterTok.
“Every brand has sub-niches of audiences with specialised interests. Addressing these niche communities requires a tailored approach, ensuring that content and social interactions are relevant to their specific needs and preferences”, Channelle states.
The problem with most brands communicating through TikTok niches (and on other channels) is that they speak like a brand. People are craving more personalised, specific experiences, so they need to be talking like a human first and foremost.
Better yet, they need to be behaving like an influencer.
How do influencers play a role in community marketing?
Influencers are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to communities. They build them, shape them and collaborate with them, all whilst bringing that authentic connection to the table. Partnering with them is an essential step to community marketing success.
If you’re not using influencers in your social media marketing strategy, you’re the odd one out (93% of marketers use influencer marketing).
We’re not going to preach to you how beneficial influencer marketing is (the numbers speak for themselves), but what we will do is bring you up to speed on how you should be utilising them in your community marketing specifically. They are, after all, the sharpest tool in your community arsenal.
What size influencer should you be using to power up your community? Macro-influencers tend to build massive worldwide followings, but micro-influencers can often be even more powerful, cultivating niche communities that drive engagement and often increase ROI. Collaborating with a mix of influencers for your activations is essential.
In today’s competitive world, how can you build influencers into your brand community strategy?
Channelle details two main ways:
1. Active engagement
“Influencers will foster community growth by actively engaging with the brand’s target audience. This goes beyond simple content creation; by actively responding to comments and questions, they can build deeper, more meaningful connections.” She mentions.
The point here is that influencers do what influencers do best. They know how to talk to a community. They can become brand advocates and brand ambassadors in the long-term. They know how to build relationships and connect with people. Using them within your brand community can be invaluable for this reason. Creating influencer content as a part of your brand content will foster those connections.
2. Utilising platform features
She also adds, “With the evolving features of social media platforms, influencers can employ tools like duets and stitches to interact directly with brand content. This not only amplifies the brand’s reach but also fosters a sense of community collaboration.”
Influencer content can’t feel forced. Users will see right through it. So, bringing influencers on board and showing them in an authentic light is getting trickier. Using features like duets and stitches expands your reach, boosts brand awareness and can even push UGC. When influencers react or connect with your brand in this way, it feels genuine and organic. Their own strong community of followers will get the chance to see this content as well as yours.
Another important thing to note is that social networks move fast. Brands need to keep up with the latest trends, features and tools that social media has to offer. That can often feel tricky. So why not allow influencers to do the hard work for you? Take note of your influencer collaborators. Form a relationship with them and take their advice. They didn’t get where they are from luck – they know what they’re doing.
Five must-follow strategies for successful community marketing
So, we’ve gone through how important building your online tribe is. But how can brands implement new strategies to make their brand communities thrive? Here are five things you need to be doing now to help your community thrive.
1. Create balanced content
You can’t shout about one thing and expect a community to pop out of nowhere. To build genuine trust and connect meaningfully with members of your brand community, you need a mix of content.
Channelle says, “A mix of influencer content, user-generated content (UGC), and direct brand content ensures diversity and authenticity in the messaging. This prevents any single voice from dominating and keeps the brand’s narrative genuine and multifaceted.”
It would be easy to get influencers to do all the hard work, but actually, to shape your brand in the right way on socials, you need to integrate their content seamlessly with yours. That means a diverse range of native (influencer content on your brand account) and non-native (influencer content on their social media accounts).
You want your community to continue sharing content, too. Promoting UGC through challenges, trends, and CTAs is key. What’s also just as important is getting your own content out there in the right way. You can use key metrics from influencer content to inform your own posts and build a web of active, accurate social media presence for your brand-community members.
2. Give influencers creative freedom
Channelle details why influencers need creative freedom: “Rather than imposing strict scripts or guidelines, granting influencers the liberty to express in their natural style resonates better with their followers. Their audience has come to trust their unique voice and style, so maintaining this authenticity is crucial for genuine engagement.”
Creators can help you build thriving communities but only if brands approach it in the right way. Influencers know what they’re doing when it comes to “influencing”. They can start trends, kick off new ideas and post irresistibly shareable content that others want to copy with their own UGC. So let them.
One mistake we see brands making is trying to creatively micromanage influencer campaigns. Although marketers need some knowledge and control with the overarching strategy, creators need to have room to do what creators do best: produce innovative, unique and authentic content. If brands dictate the creative process, users will see through it and won’t want to see more. The direct opposite of what community building is about.
3. Place products carefully
It might be tempting to throw out any new products into the community to see what sticks. But now more than ever you have to be measured with your product placement. Think about how you can bring a product into content without it looking like a massive promotion.
Channelle adds: “Today’s consumers are savvy and can easily differentiate between aggressive advertising and sincere endorsements. Integrating a brand’s products naturally into an influencer’s content often resonates more than blatant promotions. This approach feels genuine and unobtrusive, nurturing trust within the community.”
Always start with what your community is looking for. Then you can look at how to seamlessly integrate your products with native and influencer content.
If a user is looking for in-depth makeup tutorials, they may head over to NYX’s brand community on YouTube. If they’re in the mood for funny meme content, they may head over DuoLingo’s TikTok profile. Understanding the thought process behind why your customer might seek out your brand’s social media channel is essential to figuring out what kind of content you want to put out – and where your product could fit into that.
Think about the kind of interactions your consumers may want. This could be a mix of the following:
- In-depth product information
- Customer experience stories
- Meme culture
- Discussion topics
Once you pinpoint what your audience is looking for, start creating that content to establish what your brand community provides and attract the people who want to press “follow”. And then – and this is the crucial bit – remain consistent.
4. Be consistent, always
It’s easy to say consistency is key. But how do you actually remain consistent? It’s about goal setting.
“Maintaining a consistent presence and interaction level can be demanding. Brands should set clear daily goals, ensuring they are always in touch with their audience”, Channelle states.
Look into the specifics of your goals and ensure you are actively communicating with your audience on a regular basis. Posting content is one thing, but engaging with conversations, listening to your followers and answering questions are all part of the community-building process.
Brand management and community management are essential. Work with a community manager to ensure you are always hitting the right notes with your audience.
5. Go deeper with engagement
A mistake we see most brands making is just interacting on the surface level.
Channelle continues, “A simple ‘like’ or one-liner might not always suffice. Brands should strive for more intentional, thoughtful interactions that show genuine interest and understanding. This deepens trust and fosters loyalty within the community.”
Replying to comments is a must, but that alone isn’t going to be enough. Brands need to be actively engaging with conversations, dueting and stitching their audiences, building real connections and listening to the wants and needs of their customer base. Social posts have become a place for customer support too, so keep this in mind and always connect with the people asking questions (get your support team on the case here).
Each time a user engages with your brand, whether through comments, responding to a prompt or creating UGC, it is a golden opportunity for you to show your appreciation. It’s the perfect place to view consumer behaviour and understand where your customers are coming from.
Brands still don’t listen to their customers, and yet good customer experience is the bedrock of a strong brand community. So, beat the competition by listening – and showing your community that you’re doing so. Use the comments section within social media posts to get a deeper understanding of what your consumers are looking for and what they may want in the future.
Another way to show that you’re listening is to create a dedicated space for your community to ask questions. Sephora uses Discord for this as an online forum. They have a section on their server that is specifically set up for “Makeup Questions”. This not only provides an outlet for their community members to get value but also informs them of the kinds of problems their customers face.
How do you measure community marketing?
Brand communities are notoriously tricky to measure. How do you gain concrete evidence that you have a thriving community? What numbers can you focus on? Short-term gains aren’t the answer here, and measuring your ROI on the “trust” factor is difficult.
Here’s what Channelle suggests:
“Brands shouldn’t focus solely on follower counts. They need to assess the level of interaction within their community. Are members actively commenting, saving, and sharing your content? An engaged audience, even if smaller in number, often indicates a healthier community.”
Engagement metrics are key here. A healthy ER will put you in good stead. What does that look like? It depends on the channel, but here are some rules of thumb.
- Look for an engagement rate of between 1% to 5%. The higher the better.
- Calculate the ER of your influencer content and use that to assess which influencers to continue working with.
- Look into sentiment in people’s conversations. If they are engaging with your brand, what are they talking about? Are they asking questions or are they simply commenting a heart emoji. You want people to talk in your community, so get them talking.
The key here is to focus more on engagement and less on vanity metrics. A small following that is truly, deeply engaged with your brand is better than a worldwide unengaged audience.
Brand community trends to look out for in 2024
In 2023, marketers were cottoning onto the idea of brand communities. This coming year, it’s about so much more than just building.
1. Collaboration as well as conversation
Audiences are looking for more than just interaction with the brands they love. They want to be involved in brand decisions.
“As brands recognise the importance of inclusivity, they will increasingly collaborate with their communities”, Channelle explains.
She continues, “You need to be actively involving them in decision-making processes. Consumers crave a sense of belonging, and this trend will address that desire, strengthening the bond between brand and audience.”
Brands can come together with their community members to make customer-driven decisions like never before.
2. Companionship over entertainment
Entertainment has been the order of the day for a long time on social networks. From the rise of short-form content to the desire for humorous posts, people want to be entertained on every online platform. But entertaining promotional material is getting tiring. Something else needs to do the heavy lifting now.
“With the blurring lines between brands and content creators, there will be a shift towards building deeper relationships,” Channelle states.
“Audiences will increasingly seek companionship and genuine connection rather than just passive entertainment. Brands, in response, have to act more like content creators, focusing on creating meaningful and relatable interactions over mere promotional or trending content. This progression underscores the idea that brands will pivot towards fostering deeper, more meaningful relationships with their communities, prioritising engagement over exposure.”
Community engagement is all about emotional connection. So we need to start asking ourselves, how can we be meaningful? How can we be conscious of our consumer’s desires? How can we really build deeper relationships with each and every person we interact with? Entertainment still has its place in community marketing, but fundamentally, you have to be posting with purpose. Whether that’s through exclusive content for brand community members, or keeping up with the current conversations, it needs to be specific and intentional, always.
Solidifying your brand community for the future
Brand communities should not be viewed as just another marketing ploy. They are a way to harness genuine, powerful connections between your brand and its customers and establish long-term value for both parties.
We mentioned above that brands need to think like creators in order to succeed on social media.
It may interest you to know that the majority of influencers say they are more driven by the desire to create a community than by money. Brands need to think this way, too. By all means, strategise your campaigns to maximise ROI and hit KPIs. But the members of your community don’t want to be thinking about this. They want enjoyable, beneficial experiences from brand communities, not a constant barrage of promotional content.
Prioritising a sociable user experience will foster an effective brand community – and the financial perks for your brand will follow.
Once you’ve established your brand as a valuable part of your customer’s life, you have a very strong bond. This bond will keep your consumers coming back even through uncertain times. And that is what makes community marketing so special.
If you need help building a great brand community or creating a community campaign, get in touch. We can show you the best steps forward no matter where you are with your strategy.
Want some more insights? Take a look at our other blog posts on community marketing and more.