How to Launch a Community to Grow Your Business
Why You Should Build a Community For Your Brand
Building a community is a powerful way for to grow the affinity for your brand, product or service. Building a healthy community will be a rocket ship to help scale your business. The community will act as an extension of your team. It extends the capacity and impact of your brand by allowing community members to engage, help and build relationships. Depending on how you set up your community, anyone will be able to contribute.
Communities also build competitive motes around your business. Business ideas can be copied, but communities and other assets that increase brand reach will give you a lasting competitive advantage.
Creating a Community Strategy
When I recently set out to build a new community I jotted down all the ways that our services helped our customers. Then outside of that I made a list of all the ways that it would make sense for a community to help those same people. We really wanted to create an authentic community. That meant paying close attention to how we balanced business goals and the value we bring to the members.
For example, let's say you are building a community for a bicycle brand. Here's how our goals might lay out:
- Increase lifetime value, loyalty and retention of customers
- Grow brand apparel and gear sales
- Increase earned media for product launches
- Give product support and collect feedback
- Grow active membership
- Grow followers to brand social channels
- Grow turnout to physical events
- Increase user generated content
It's important to not have a massive list of goals as you launch your community. You'll want to have a narrow focus of how you expect members to interact. You are going to be reporting back on how the community is affecting the business. Having a narrow focus will also help you decide what metrics to report back on.
Who is Your Community Built For?
Similar to a business, the more niche your community is the better you can serve them. Going back to the example of a bicycle brand. We might focus on one vertical of customers to build a community for. Maybe you want it to serve more than just customers, because you want to use the community to increase customer acquisition. Start with your goals and business outcomes are. Then decide who makes the most sense to reach your desired outcomes.
Engagement and Participation
To build an engaging community you have to start with an authentic connection with the members. After you've established an authentic connection everything else will come easier.
People love having a place where they can communicate their experiences and passions with others. It's important that people aren't just communicating with your brand. You want the relationship between you and the members to go beyond brand and customers.
One of the perks of building a community is user generated content. Think of ways that you can incentivize user generated content from your members that would provide value to the community.
Let's run back to our bicycle company real quick, and create a community just for our mountain bike riders. We would incentivize our more experienced riders to create valuable content for beginner riders. We would even incentivize our experienced riders to answer community questions as well. We could offer exclusive experiences at our events for community members to help increase event turnout. See how that works. It gets fun reallllly quick.
Motivation and Incentives
One critical component to the success of your community is ensuring that your members feel validated and rewarded. As a marketer you have to lean into intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Extrinsic motivation is when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity because we want to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Intrinsic motivation is when you engage in a behavior because you find it rewarding.
The scalability of your community will depend on how you can leverage extrinsic motivations with your group. When you start with the language you use plan for being able to shift to more extrinsic rewards as the community becomes more passionate. Don't be afraid to lean into intrinsic rewards though. As long as they make business sense they are great levers to pull for your business. You could reward user-generated-content with schwag. If a member gives you product feedback you might consider sending them a discount. As your monitoring the growth, participation, and health of your community you will want to interject a steady diet of incentivized activations to help get your community moving in the right direction.
Later this month I'm going to do a review of my favorite platforms for growing a community. I'll break down why I use the platform I use.
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