How to Build a Brand Community
What is a Brand Community?
A Brand Community refers to a digital or in-person collective that gives your customer base the ability to connect with one another and your brand. It could be a club with monthly or weekly meetings (i.e., a meditation group or runners club), a Facebook Group, or even a Hashtag Campaign that’s taken on its own identity. Notably, a Brand Community doesn’t always need to be managed by your brand – instead, it could simply be powered by it.
The Importance of Building a Brand Community
The digital age we live in allows us to connect with thousands of people without leaving the comfort of our homes; however, this age of technology doesn’t result in a universally strengthened sense of togetherness. Instead, the digital age has resulted in a drought of belonging. People need an online space to feel welcomed; a space they can be themselves and interact with like-minded individuals.
A successful Brand Community will provide people with that space and deliver a sense of belonging to its members. When you create a space for your customer base to come together, it creates incredible brand loyalty and customer retention.
A well-structured community can become relatively self-sustaining, requiring little-to-no management or moderation from your brand (aside from responding to comments and questions – always respond to your audience where appropriate).
Types of Brand Communities
Volunteer Initiative. For example, if you have a business niched in sustainable living, you could organize an event to pick up litter at the beach. An event like this would provide solid foundation for a community with a value that aligns with your brand’s vision.
Facebook Group. For example, a mental health organization could create a Facebook Group for peer-support and mental health, incorporating their brand name into the group name. Groups like this can be self-sustaining with appropriate moderation.
Physical Clubs. For example, Lulu Lemon hosts a yoga class for its loyal customers on a weekly basis.
Hashtag Campaign. For Example, American Eagle’s Aerie has a hashtag community for #AerieREAL dedicated to unfiltered self-love and body positivity.
Workshops. These could be in-person or online. A classroom of any kind is a community. Coming together to learn new skills or information evokes a sense of togetherness amongst students. Workshops and webinars can be a catalyst for community building as well. For example, people who watch your webinars and join your workshops might be interested in sharing ideas and learning from each other. Creating a space for them to connect is ideal.
Get creative! If it brings people together and creates a sense of belonging – you can do it. A good example of this is Taylor Swift’s website. There is a feature on her site where fans can create their own Taylor Swift fan page. And people love to share the things they create with other people in the same community – extending your reach and inspiring others to join the community as well.
Some Examples of Brand Communities
Tim Hortons has built a community of identity – predominantly in Canada. Tim Hortons has established itself as a Proudly Canadian brand. It has harnessed stereotypes and trends surrounding how it’s "Canadian" to get your coffee from “Timmy’s”. Tim Horton’s has been incredibly successful in how it’s interlocked its brand with Canadian identity. This is a form of community for Tim Horton’s. Drinking a Tim’s coffee is now part of what it means to be Canadian.
The #BellLetsTalk campaign is a great example of a Hashtag Campaign that evokes a sense of belonging, togetherness, and community in people across Canada regardless of who their service provider is. Nationally, individuals share their mental health stories to raise awareness and donations for the annual #BellLetsTalk campaign every January. While the campaign is acute and short-lived, it is massive in its impact and reach.
The Running Room. This company sells fitness apparel and accessories, catered specifically to runners. What’s unique about this brand is they offer a Free Run Club to their customers, an event that takes place Wednesdays and Sundays at every location. Additionally, members of the Free Run Club get free online access to The Running Room Club, which is equipped with valuable features to help members reach their running goals. The Running Room needed to pivot in the wake of COVID-19 and has temporarily suspended the Free Run Club, replacing it with access to a Virtual Running Advisor and Online Training Programs to continue helping their customers to reach their running goals amidst the pandemic.
How to Build a Brand Community
There are three essential steps in building a community:
People need a captivating reason to join and stay.
People need to feel it is worth their time to engage with others and your brand.
It has to offer value and be easy for members to share the community or invite other people to join.
Your Brand Community should always reflect your brand’s vision and appeal your brand's market. There’s a reason your customer base is attracted to your brand – it solves a problem they have. And additionally, every single one of your customers has another problem: they need to feel a sense of belonging. Solve all their problems in one place and you’ll create superfans and a self-sustaining, loyal customer base that grows itself.