Isn’t community the same as social media? Do you work in HR? What team are you a part of? ...These are just a few questions I’ve received during my time as a Community Manager, and while they do make me scratch my head, I can’t blame anyone for not knowing what I do. Community is fairly new to most industries, and in my humble opinion, more important than ever when building brand loyalty.
Influencer marketing is at an all-time high, leading many consumers to wonder how many, and which, influencers they can actually trust. Brands with a community have the advantage of knowing they have a genuine group of members who are there to offer their honest feedback, and perhaps, refer some friends along the way.
Don’t sweat it if community building hasn’t been on your radar over the past few years, but do know that it’s on the ascent. With the rise of virtual work in 2022, 35% more teams now have a dedicated community person than they did in 2021. And that’s where I come into play as Wrk’s first-ever Community Manager.
So why am I here to tell you about the importance of having a community? Well, partly because I was asked to write this piece for our blog. Partly because 86% of people agree that community is critical to a company's mission. But mostly, it’s because I fully believe that having a community is a non-negotiable for brands.
What it means to have a community
When folks think of community, they might be aware of some of the larger players in the industry. Big brands like Shopify and Sephora have honed in on community building since the late 2010s. In turn, their communities have scaled and developed multiple platforms, such as the newly launched “Shopify Collabs” which lets creators connect with merchants directly on Shopify.
Communities are built to enhance the connection between your business and its customers in a more intimate way than social media and other forms of marketing can.
With a community, you can drive customers to share stories, moderate commonly asked questions, and champion your brand. Community builds relationships and a sense of belonging for those who live and breathe your business, which is much more than you can do with a monthly newsletter and a few social posts.
Community as a competitive advantage
Think about this–your Support staff is bogged down with repetitive questions, leaving less time to help customers who need assistance with their accounts. This creates a bad support experience, which typically leads to negative reviews and social media sentiment, as well as decreased NPS scores from your customers. Not to mention, you risk losing your customers to a competitor who can do it better. To assist all of your customers in a timely manner, you have the following options: pay your team to work overtime, hire another team member, OR allocate funds to community building.
Community platforms offer a space for open discussion amongst your customers. Commonly asked questions are often found in forums built by community members, and the answers are right along with them.
Moderators and admins act as your brand champions, being the most well-versed in your business to be able to answer even the most complex questions. Your business can then reduce support costs, given there is a member-run community outlet for common support content.
Additionally, once your customers see a largely engaged audience, it will mean that they can trust your brand based on the experience of other community members. Customers also build bonds with each other, which leads to higher customer retention.
Why would you as a community member leave for a competitor, when you have a community you’re already a part of? Which brand would you recommend to friends and family, given your loyalty as a community member to this select business?
All in all, community comes with reduced support costs, higher customer retention, and a lower likelihood of your customers leaving for a competitor. So which would you choose?
The basics of community building
While there is a lot to think about when building a community (there’s literally a whole book on it), there are a few things that are key to keep in mind before you begin:
- What: Your community must tie into your business’s values and mission in order for the community to align with it. What is your community’s purpose?
- Where: What platform will your community live on and what works best for your business? The platform selection process can be lengthy, so make sure you dedicate enough time to finding the right one. It’s more difficult to move a community over to a new platform, so it’s best to start off with your top choice, even if it means paying for the platform rather than using a free one.
- Who: Identify your stakeholders. Community efforts include buy-in from multiple cross-functional teams, ranging from marketing, support, product, and engineering. Most importantly, make sure you have a Community Lead on board to kick it all off!
- Who (part two): The only communities that can scale are ones that are built smartly and sustainably, so don’t underestimate starting small.
- When: Ensure to have a timeline in place for your community. What will you accomplish in the first 30, 60, 90 days? What will your community look like a year from now?
- Why: What does community mean for your business and how will it help your business succeed? A community strategy is key to success. I invite you to get into the nitty gritty of metrics and measurements through the linked book above, The Business of Belonging, which was written by community-pro David Spinks. CMX, Commsor, and Threado are also excellent free resources to guide your community-building measurements.
Once your community is built, you may be wondering if anyone will even participate in your community. What if the community doesn’t engage off of the bat? Are we offering enough resources?
The 1-9-90 Theory of Engagement is a great insight into how to anticipate community engagement. Engagement will initially come primarily from your Community Lead. Eventually, you’ll want to get to the point where your members are creating most of the discussion topics. Patience is key.
Asking the community for feature requests is another great way to build engagement and show that you care about your community’s feedback. This really ties in the belonging of the community directly to your business.
When focusing on bettering your community, think of what more they may want through surveys, like NPS and polls. You’ll also want to reward those who participate the most, such as moderators, with branded swag or badges. You may want to host events and meetups that relate to your community’s needs, which is an excellent way to engage even the quietest of members.
The Future of Community
What I’d love for anyone to take away from this piece is that the time for community is now. Community is as valuable as ever as companies strive to enhance brand loyalty. Community programs are also focussed on growth, with 19% of communities in 2022 focussing on acquisition as their top priority, up from 13% in 2021. With a solid community, businesses can stay ahead of competitors by building these relationships to make them long-lasting.
Community is critical to a company’s mission. The future of community is here, so focus on building your community today!
Check out our Thought Leadership posts for even more valuable insights!