It’s not simply a 2022 marketing buzzword. “Community” is one of the founding use cases of the internet, and one of the most underutilized marketing strategies.
For a select few businesses and e-commerce brands, it’s their superpower.
An avid fan base drives sales, repeat purchases, and word-of-mouth in a more authentic way than a paid advertisement ever could. But building community isn’t easy, nor ROI-positive in the short term.
With changes in the world of paid digital advertising, community marketing is slated to be one of the biggest areas of growth and investment over the next decade for e-commerce brands.
Groupshop is at the forefront of community marketing, enabling eCommerce brands to turn their customers into partners.
Let’s dive into the fundamentals of community building.
What is the Purpose of Communities?
Humans are social creatures. So much so that loneliness and social isolation are linked to negative physical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
“Everyone needs to be part of a community because we’re human beings, and the natural form of an individual is to belong and be part of a tribe,” says Wiz of Ecom who runs Utopia, a community of marketers.
In short, your community exists for your users’ benefit. Build it around helping them connect with others.
Does a Community Already Exist Around My Brand?
There are two kinds of communities.
The first, a ‘natural’ community that emerges from the brand’s users without any involvement from the brand. It’s unusual for this kind of community to blossom on its own unless the brand or product is remarkable and/or innovative.
“If strangers are connecting over your product organically, you’re doing something right,’’ says Tom Cote, the founder of innovative smart-fridge Pallate.
The second type is formed and encouraged by the business. Brands can spin up a forum or group chat for users to connect with each other and the brand.
If your brand falls in the “natural” community category, the first step is to find, connect, and empower the leader(s) of your brand’s existing community.
If your brand falls into the second category, determine why people would join a community around your products or industry. Are people already talking about the brand? Can your brand provide extra value to those interested in doing more with your products? Will people benefit from connecting with others who love your products?
Building Your Community
Once you’ve answered those questions, outline a strategy around these four guidelines.
1. Provide value: Share content your audience finds valuable (video, written, audio)
“Learning what your community wants doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an iterative process. Pay attention to what content is resonating and double-down,” says Simple Sheets co-founder Noel Campos. To complement their core product of game-changing, Excel spreadsheet templates, they provide Excel tips and tricks on different social platforms to educate their audience on how to use the popular software better at work.
2. Be Engaging: Engage with your audience often & reward community participation.
“As a solopreneur, people talk with me directly. It makes them feel like part of the brand’s journey,” says Hot Product Studios founder, Cole Cordell, who’s built his community exclusively online.
3. Exclusivity: Give community members special access to new products, features and discounts.
“When we release a new color of an item, I look to see who has purchased that item in our existing colors and reach out personally with early access. It’s a fantastic way to engage with customers and make them feel special,” says Shawn Graham, the founder of Clothes by Graham.
4. Facilitate Connections: Enhance your community by hosting offline events in order to strengthen networking opportunities.
One of the brands that does this best is Greater Than, a natural performance drink company.
Greater Than has become a “direct-to-community” brand by fostering a safe space for breastfeeding mothers where they can share their mom hacks, nutrition tips, and even have honest conversations about postpartum struggles that are often ignored elsewhere.
“Much of this happens organically in the comments section of our ads and on our social posts, mainly because we lean so heavily in unedited user-generated content (UGC), real customer testimonials, and educational content rather than solely pushing our core product,” says Greater Than co-founder and CMO Bryan Alston.
Benefits of a Community
Building a community is a long-term play. It requires consistency over a long period of time. However, The benefits of community building are undeniable.
With a strong community, you’re more likely to:
● Increase Your Average Order Value (AOV)
● Lower Acquisition Costs (CAC)
● Improve your product through customer feedback loops
There’s no better time to start building your community than right now.
As Nanoflips founder James Camp summed it up, “The reality is that an engaged community is the future of commerce.”
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