Marketing

How your fan club can help you

NILESH PATEL | Updated on March 10, 2018

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Mr Nilesh Patel, Founder & CEO, Leadsquared

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The power of community marketing in building your brand

Have you ever been in an argument with an Apple user about how your Android device gets your work done at a much lower cost?

It isn’t pretty, is it?

Or, are you an Apple user, in which case I am just here to make a point.

The sense of belonging is a very powerful driving force for human beings. That’s just how we are wired.

Histories have been made as men marched to endless battles, for right or for wrong, following the leaders that gave them a sense of purpose.

This is the power of community.

And, it’s not about the labels we put on people, but their own perceptions of themselves.

The sense of belonging also comes third in Maslow’s need hierarchy theory, right after the basic physiological and safety needs. (See figure.) So, it’s one of the deficiency needs, which if not met, leads to anxiety.

Family and friends is the most basic way people strive to belong. On the next level, everything from religious associations and political beliefs to the sports teams they support is people trying to make sense in their worlds otherwise filled with chaos and confusion.

Every time the elections draw near, you see verbal battles raging on Twitter and other platforms, everyone vehemently defending his or her candidate of choice.

Politics is perhaps a sensitive subject. But, you can also find people engaging in tiffs over things as simple as an artist on the internet with such intensity that it makes you question your own commitment to anything at all. And these are not isolated fights either – strangers, with similar interests, come to their aid. It’s amazing to see how it all works. Let’s come back to my Apple question again, and see why you should never ever underestimate this power of community.

Communities can build brands

Huge brands have been built based just on this sense of community – Apple, Harley Davidson, Royal Enfield – they all have something in common besides great products. They have loyal customer communities that identify so strongly with the brand that one discussion concerning the brand can create their arch enemies and confidantes.

This comes from that sense of belonging. People who identify as being different are Apple’s users, and people who identify as adventurous are the Enfield owners. There are conventions held for Enfield riders, Star Trek conventions, Comic Cons and many other events, where people from all over the world proudly declare their solidarity with their fellow community members.

And, it’s not just the brands’ forte, either. Publishing sites, such as Buzzfeed, are filled with copious amounts of ‘10 things all hipsters love’, ‘5 problems only introverts will understand’, type of articles. Then there are quizzes, each and every one of them trying to conclusively prove if I am on Team Dumbledore or Team Voldemort, or something similar.

Also, many small businesses are doing a great job of building a community. You just have to give your audience a platform to express its thoughts and connect with other like-minded individuals – GrowthHackers, Quora, StackExchange and several other thriving communities are great examples.

This community can be anywhere, from your Facebook or Twitter followers to your newsletter subscribers and your blog readers.

But, it’s not about pure numbers (follower count); it’s about their actual affiliation to what you have to say. One of our clients, BHive, which provides co-working space to start-ups, has been able to build a strong community of people both online and offline. Once again, it comes from a sense of doing the same things – start-up owners, freelancers and the likes form a part of their community.

Brand ambassadors, distributors

One great example of a successful community builder is author and modern marketing hero Seth Godin.

He has been an unequivocal supporter of being a part of a community, or a “tribe”, as he has called it for many years. He blogs every single day, sometimes more than once, and has built a community of religiously dedicated readers and blog subscribers.

That’s his community.

With his last book he proved how successful he has been in maintaining this community, when it became an instant success without any traditional marketing techniques. All he did was write a post announcing to his community that his new book was out for pre-order. Another thing he did was this – there were two books sent out for one copy ordered, five sent out for two copies ordered.

So, this community of hi got extras in its hands. What would they do with them? Of course, they would give it away, and that’s what happened. His community became his distributors, spreading word about his book, and helping in its success.

But, like everything worthwhile, such a powerful community takes time to build. The important thing is for you to get invested in it in the first place. In a recent podcast with SocialMediaExaminer, he said this: “I am an overnight success with this book, and it only took me 20 years to do that.” That’s something to think about.

Help your sales

Birchbox is a business that’s built around the subscription model. And every time we speak of subscription, we speak of a community.

So, for a subscription fee of $10 a month, it sends across product samplers to their subscribers.

Their subscriber number is huge – upwards of 800,000.

Now just selling subscriptions for product samples might not sound profitable, but there’s more to it.

The main revenue for them comes from the community of subscribers buying the full-sized products that they sample. So, that’s how Birchbox’s community has made it profitable.

Get you visibility

Continuing with my Birchbox example, the whole unboxing of its products is a huge deal on Instagram, with people posting photographs and videos of the contents that arrive month on month, along with relevant hashtags. That’s some powerful community word of mouth right there.

Guess what this would do!

It creates the FOMO (fear of missing out) effect among others in these community members’ social networks.

That’s a huge deal for their target audience. Result – more subscribers and more sales.

Give you focus

Because people are so invested in their communities, their other interests get revealed as well in the discussions there. Careful social listening (and there are so many tools available for that) can give you the next idea for your product, to something as small as your next blog post, which would add more likeminded people to your community.

Sounding board for ideas

Okay, you can say that loyal communities would make poor critics, and therefore that’s not a good place to get a feedback for your next plan.

But, that’s not necessarily true. People are intelligent. And, they know your product to the point of knowing all the loopholes inside out. So, go ahead take the next idea for innovation from them in the form of a survey, or the next idea for an update in the form of a feedback and you would get it.

Build trust

Communities are strong supporters for you – among their friends, neighbours and anyone else who gets into a conversation with them about anything even remotely related to you. And community members are generally highly opinionated. This happens both on and offline. They can help get more members on board.

So many times it’s not even the people who would buy your product, but who just like an aspect of your business. We have built something of a small following for our webinars, in the form of people who tune in regularly, and recommend it to people on social media. They might not be our buyers but definitely are our brand ambassadors.

So, communities are powerful, and you should really invest in creating one. However, there is one thing to keep in mind while you do this.

Respect your community

Communities are made of real people, and you cannot treat your community just as a place to make money. These people might value your brand for any reason – your product is great, your customer service is great, you support great causes, or you are awesome in general.

And you need to respect that, by continuing to stick to the things that made you great in their eyes in the first place.

Their loyalty to you is not your entitlement. It’s their choice, and they have a choice to change their mind, if your values and theirs are not common anymore.

So, give them this respect by providing real value and an environment conducive to some real discussions. Remember, any great relationship that lasts can be built only on mutual respect.

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Published on June 18, 2015
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