What does it mean to have your own community?
The term 'community' has been thrown around a lot recently, here's what it truly means.
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Recently, Thingtesting published a wonderful article on brand communities, which explored whether every DTC brand needed a community — short answer: no. It really depends on the type of brand you have, the product you’re selling, and the audience you’re selling to.
But that got me thinking: what does it really mean to have a community? How do you know whether a community already naturally exists for your brand? How can you nurture that community for your brand? Do you really need to?
In this article we’re going to explore all of that.
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Brand communities are not a new concept.
Online communities have been around pretty much since the beginning of the Internet. They started as newsgroups, and then pre-social-media forums, MySpace, Facebook Groups, YouTube comment sections — if people wanted to discuss about something, they found a platform to share their thoughts and opinions.
Brand communities are also not new. In the past, they were pretty much limited to support or discussion forums of technology tools such as software and other consumer/prosumer tech. Non-tech communities existed, but they were also quite niche, and sometimes not even run by the brand itself.
Essentially, we’ve had brand communities as long as we’ve had brands – even if they were in the form of groups of people owning the same products in a neighbourhood and talking about them over dinner 😉 The Internet just took them to scale.
Should you invest in community? 💸
“Is there room to educate? Is there room to inform, is there room to demystify? Is there room to make people who feel like outsiders in this conversation to feel like insiders? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then [that brand] should invest in community.”
At the end of the day, communities are dedicated spaces where people share ideas and ask for help. They are also spaces where people feel like “they belong” or they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
Your community may not necessarily be about your brand or your product, but it may be about your industry, a cause that you’re championing, or something else that you stand for.
But maybe your community already exists 🌱
Think about it. Is there a space where people are talking about and sharing about their experiences with your brand or with your products? Are they already discussing things related to your business on your social media? Are they asking and answering questions?
One example could be your Instagram comment section — how engaged is it? Are people discussing things? Do they seem to want to express themselves, or talk about things they’re passionate about?
A community ≠ the platform 👀
Communities are not just a Slack/Discord/Facebook Groups/Reddit/online forum spaces
These are not communities in themselves, but these are channels. They are spaces where a community can live, breathe and grow. The community is within them.
For example, Glossier has an absolutely wonderful community in the form of a Facebook Group – we wrote an article on this a few months ago. Or how Nordstrom has an active community on Reddit. What works for one brand may not work for another.
Far too many brands believe that their job is to open channels and invite people to join, and then they will take care of themselves. This is unfortunately not the case – as we’ll see, there are some “environmental conditions” that are required for a community to really flourish.
But, finding the right platform is important ✔️
A platform is a tool. Your job is to nurture a community, and you need to find the right tool for the job.
Ask yourself these questions:
Are my customers already gathering and discussing anywhere?
Is that the perfect platform? Are they lacking anything?
Could these discussions benefit from being held elsewhere?
What is the cost of shifting platforms? Is there too much friction? Will people shift?
Answers to these questions will help you find the right platform to host your community, whether it’s the one your customers are already at, or a new one.
Nurturing your community 🧘🏼♀️
The great thing about communities is that they are like plants — with care and support, they can really flourish into something great, but they pretty much grow themselves at the end of the day. On the other hand, without nurturing them, they can grow in ways that you may not want them to.
Give your community space. Don’t shove brand content towards them, let discussions take place naturally, but be there when something goes wrong and intervention is needed.
Occasionally add “fuel” by rewarding your community with pre-launch products, exclusive offers, and other things to show them that you appreciate them, since your community members are likely to be the most loyal supporters of your brand.
What are your thoughts on community building for brands? Is this something that’s a must-have in 2022? What do you think about this? Hit “reply” to this email and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Shameless plug: Ubu is a tool that helps DTC brands engage and grow their community better by combining Inbox Management, UGC/Analytics and an Influencer CRM. We're growing pretty fast in Europe, and I'd love to have you give it a shot for free for your brand.
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Thanks for reading, and see you guys next week! ✨