Diana Ford

Community-Based Marketing: How to Convert More with A Social Community

Want to retain more customers and build a wave of loyalty to ensure future growth for your business? The answer lies in community-based marketing.

Imagine that instead of countless efforts identifying and investing in brand building theories, your existing base is actively hitting the streets, giving testimony to how your products and services are the best on the market.

Getting the community to back your products and become your most reliable sales agents isn’t an easy process. But, once in place, the residual benefits will cut deep through any market—no matter how competitive.

So in this post, let’s investigate how to build community-based marketing to become the choice brand in your niche.

<what>What is community-based marketing?<what>

Community-based marketing is a strategy that tailors brand marketing to a target community. It involves bringing together a group of like-minded people around a common need, goal, or interest. This creates more awareness and trust with the brand, eventually resulting in more sales and better customer retention.

Communities can exist in a variety of places:

  • Social media followings or groups
  • Slack (or similar) groups
  • Online forums
  • Email subscribers
  • Offline meetups and events

A brand's "community" usually exists across a combination of these places. But some decide to create dedicated, gated forums and groups to get a more tangible view of the people inside and engagement taking place.

As a result:

Community marketing takes advantage of the connection in a community and attracts customers, which can increase sales overall. Thus, this type of marketing focuses on consumer needs through direct interaction, which helps brands convert new customers.

<why>Why use a community-based marketing approach?<why>

There are several benefits to maintaining an engaged community for your brand.

Let's take a quick look at a few of the headliners:

1. Bottom-line sales and revenue

The most important thing to consider for any business activity is: Does this actually result in sales at some point down the line?

Community marketing does this by:

  • Building trust and problem/solution awareness
  • Gathering user-generated reviews
  • Spreading word-of-mouth for the brand

The community is the best place to generate user loyalty and motivate your clients to share honest thoughts and emotions (reviews). 

Additionally, these reviews and comments can contain excellent feedback on which you can iterate your products and services. So if you manage into the brand community correctly, you will receive much more feedback from clients who genuinely care:

Lush community-based marketing

Once you see a boost in user-generated content, expect growing brand awareness, which, in turn, brings new site traffic and generates organic links for SEO.

2. Increase customer loyalty and retention

Since it's 5x more expensive to acquire new customers for a brand than to retain existing ones, companies try new approaches. So community marketing became a widespread tool to retain clients, although not every company uses all its assets.

Repeat vs. new customer graphic
Source: Constant Contact

This approach offers better control for organizations since it is easier to listen to your customer, learn more about their habits, engage more in customer service, etc. And proper controls ensure that customers have a longer dwell time on the brand’s platform.

Hosting virtual corporate events such as fundraisers that focus on the community is also great for building better relationships with clients as well as giving employees a chance to have fun and spend time away from the office environment.

3. Community marketing provides a unique experience 

Buying a product from a specific brand can allow people to join community discussions and become a part of something bigger than just your products and services.

Later's use of Instagram as a community platform is an excellent example here:

Later Instagram Stories
Source: Later

Brands can use platform access to raise engagement and involvement in any product announcements about new collections, updates, or limited offers. This unique experience motivates users to buy more of the brand’s products.

4. Test new products and ideas

Community marketing provides businesses with the opportunity to test their products on prospective customers. An early test on products allows organizations to get first-hand insights on a product and refine it during a product release or update.

Here's how Kobo launched its new eReader to its Instagram community as a pre-order:

Kobo eReader Instagram post
Source: Later

Such reviews also help to identify the brand’s strengths and weaknesses. So, it is left to take needed amendments and value the community point of view.

Once users see that the brand listens to their comments, they are more likely to become pioneers and spread their voice about such an experience.

Brands should implement community marketing because it reduces the dependence on paid advertisements in the long term. It creates organic traffic to a brand that is easier and cheaper to maintain.

<how>How to get started with community marketing<how>

Here are nine points you need to know on how to get started with community marketing:

1. Conduct competitor research

Knowing the weaknesses and strengths of competitors helps a community brand avoid any shortcomings experienced by the competition. It also helps define your company’s unique value to attract a more like-minded audience that will bring more customers.

You can start by checking competitor brand mentions.

Some of the brand mention tools include Iconosquare, which checks for mentions on social media.

Other software like BuzzSumo can identify the most mentioned brands on different platforms and rank the popularity of every piece of content they produce, so that you know what content type to focus on beforehand:

BuzzSumo example search

Identifying the leading competition allows the organization to structure its model and set up its unique community.

2. Choose a relevant community platform for the target audience

A good platform is crucial to ensure that the organization remains in contact with the community members. The chosen platform should depend on:

  • Potential audience reach
  • Cost of paid ads
  • Targeting options
  • Potential for driving traffic
  • Potential for lead generation
  • The demographics of the target audience

For instance:

Consider the demographic area while selecting a platform. If the target community is in the same local area, offline events and meetups are an excellent way to reach them. If they are dispersed, then online platforms that are available for all members are the best way.

Social media stats infographic
Source: Talkwalker

It doesn't have to be a social media platform, though. You can build your community via Slack group, email list, online Q&A forum—or a combination of them all!

Just make sure it has the capability to offer the target audience the means to access your content, products, and training.

Example: LEGO Ideas Community Platform

The members share ideas of new products through LEGO Ideas:

LEGO Ideas

LEGO provides incentives and positive interaction by showcasing the best ideas and launching some as brand products. As a result, the brand’s conversion rate increases.

To create this community, the company must have a well-known brand and authority. Otherwise, you won’t attract enough audience to keep it engaging.

3. Attract influencers for expertise

An organization should have experts who will act as brand ambassadors. Brand experts are involved in lead generation because they directly contact the community and impact user buying decisions. 

Some of the tools used to find brand ambassadors include BrandChamp, EveryoneSocial, and CrewFire.

These are pieces of software that simplify the search and quality control of influencers for the company. Such an automated approach increases the company’s sales and conversion rate by attracting the relevant audience:

Influencer marketing search example
Source: Influencer Marketing Hub

Example: Frugi’s true brand influencers

Frugi, an organic children's wear brand, created a community of parents who share family photos and ideas through a Facebook group and an advocacy program:

Frugi social post

The Facebook group provides a platform for interaction, while the advocacy program has activities that parents can complete for rewards as a form of community marketing.

The only trusted brand ambassadors here are parents. Showing that "influencer marketing" doesn't always need to be about getting people with huge followings to post on your behalf.

4. Create helpful content

The brand ambassadors of an organization need to create content that will be helpful and appropriate for the target audience. The organization is responsible for ensuring that the content passed by experts is meaningful to the community and suitable for the brand.

Inappropriate content by brand ambassadors to the community may translate to a loss of customers. 

The company must:

  • Have diverse influencers to target the vast community
  • Respond positively with a solution-oriented approach
  • Act in line with its vision and mission
Great content diagram
Source: TapInfluence

5. Host events

Offline and virtual live events can be a great way to create an even deeper connection within your community—both with the brand itself and among the different community members.

Events should:

  • Be solution-oriented and focus on providing something helpful
  • Assure clients that the company’s products are reliable and authentic
  • Raise interest among new customers
  • Increase engagement with the brand 

For instance:

Events can involve activities that strengthen the bond between the brand and the community, attracting more people and raising the conversion rate. A significant number of customers means that the brand of the organization is growing.

Thus, it is crucial to hold events that bring the organization and the target audience together.

Example: SE Ranking online webinars

SE Ranking, an all-in-one SEO software, has a hot season of free educational webinars hosted by brand ambassadors. The company uses its official Youtube channel for online streams instead of recorded videos to make viewers interact with the brand and speakers in real-time.

Look at all the comments taking place in this one:

SE Ranking YouTube event comments

Such an approach brings more informed conversions since the user sees the platform usage in action, asks questions in the live chat, and observes how the expert handles particular SEO tasks using the platform.

PRO TIP:

Get people signed up to your event with this landing page template:

See more landing page templates

6. Provide incentives & gifts for the community

Rewarding loyal community members with gifts and prizes is a great way to both attract new customers and retain existing ones.

For instance:

A company may award a member of a community loyalty points every time they purchase or use its product and provide them with avenues to redeem their points for instant prizes.

Such a reward system motivates the target audience to use the brand’s products and boosts conversions. Therefore, rewarding your audience is crucial to encourage customers to use the company’s products.

Example: Adidas Creators Club

Adidas Creators Club creates a community through a reward program. The members participate in activities, and the winners receive rewards:

Adidas Creators Club

This is an excellent source for constant sales growth because the reward system attracts only dedicated customers ready for challenges.

A word of warning, though:

People on social media are more aware of giveaway mechanics these days. Meaning some will be attracted into your community, only to leave once the giveaway ends.

So, if you decide to go for a gifting activity, work on clear terms and conditions, set a goal and KPIs for the campaign, and choose an occasion instead of making it regularly.

SEE MORE: 6 Giveaway Landing Page Examples You Can Copy Today (with Templates)

7. Customize community marketing on a local level 

Due to the large demographic region of some communities, some members may have varying preferences. As a result, such brands should focus on customizing the community’s needs at a local level, making every community member feel appreciated and recognized by the brand. 

Example: Lululemon’s brand value

Lululemon is the most advanced and unique community example in a fashion retail niche. It focuses on global and local communities with separate ambassadors, creates hubs, supports events, and cares about social impact with sustainability.

Lululemon community impact

These mechanics can increase conversion rates along with a high investment in time and management as all brand influencers are highly involved in the community and create high-value content with activities.

8. Participate in conversations inside the community

Depending on the organization’s size, the group administrator or product owner should participate in discussions inside the community to drive engagement and affinity. Since people’s needs keep changing, an organization needs to keep up with the changes.

Jimmy John's Twitter responses
Source: AgencyBloc

To do so, brands should keep talking to people, gather feedback about their products, and collect any suggestions and preferences that the customers may have through community marketing.

For instance:

Feedback collection helps brands adjust to customer preferences, ensuring those customers convert and improve brand loyalty overall. Therefore, conversations between a community brand and the community are essential in feedback collection and maintaining relevance.

9. Promote in an informative way

An organization’s information to the community should inform about new products and how they can be used. Customers will have a chance to learn about the brand’s product before acquiring it.

As a result, customers may evaluate the different options provided in the advertisement before purchasing.

However:

It's worth keeping in mind that 45% of customers leave a community if the brand puts in too much advertising. It is one of the most impactful factors—alongside the quality of the product, customer service, and content strategy.

Why consumers unfollow brands on social media
Source: SproutSocial

Only informative advertisements and promotions ensure the growth of the community brand as you can share more details about the product and show inclusive information about the team. All increasing the loyalty and openness of your readers and potential customers.

<measure>How to measure community-based marketing<measure>

One of the challenges of community-based marketing is its difficulty in measuring whether it’s "working" and attributing sales leads from it.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Measure key stats. This is primarily based on where you mainly “house” your community. But, it could be stats like added group members, engagements, comments, page views, shares, etc. 
  • Qualitative study. Survey your members to ask them specifically about how helpful the community is to them.
  • Post-purchase survey. Ask people where they heard about you and any community engagements they’ve had in a post-purchase or post-signup survey.
  • Anecdotal feedback. Is your community being mentioned more in demos and sales calls? It’s worth noting this anecdotal feedback when evaluating the usefulness of your community.

<start>Start building your community today<start>

Community-based marketing is an effective strategy for establishing like-minded people around your brand. This type of marketing is essential, since it:

  1. Builds brand affinity (increasing chance of conversion down the line)
  2. Maintains customer loyalty (increasing retention and/or repeat buys)

Remember, it is crucial to identify the needs of the target audience and the platform through which they can best be reached. Get this right, and you’ll soon be building a robust community of advocates loyal to your brand.

About the author

Diana Ford

Digital Marketing Specialist
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Diana is a writer, digital marketing specialist and freelance business consultant who has over a decade of experience in her field. Her work has been featured on the likes of Outbrain, UXmatters, Clutch, Volusion, and 60SecondMarketer.