Community marketing is a simple enough strategy in digital PR. Every brand, optimistically speaking, should have a community or communities. Most have – and they are usually a motley cluster of people/consumers (now usually found on social media assets).
Almost everybody on these social media follows one or more brands and entities. They follow the brand and get informed on what the brand is up to. They are eager to snap up any bargains that come their way. They participate enthusiastically in digital PR surveys, campaigns, and promotional activities that promise some goodies and some even when there is nothing on offer. These are people who like to have their voices heard and share a strong bond with the brand. And they like to share their experiences and comment on others’ experiences as well. It’s all very connected to some extent and a brand manager’s first-hand exposure to customers’ feelings towards his/her brand.
And the nicest part is that when the going is good, the brand will be promoted by these communities and bring in more consumers and followers. This really goes well with food, retail, fashion, health, and beauty, but can also be used as efficiently by other brands.
So what is community marketing? First, you are marketing to existing customers. Remember the adage that says it is ten times more (or more) costly to bring in a new customer than retain one? That sums up the reason why you should indulge in community marketing. Here we have a community build through digital PR campaigns that has sampled your products/brands and is very much interested in building a relationship with your brand. Why then do you want to reject their advances? This community is eager to have a conversation, in a non-intrusive and active manner. Makes sense to indulge them.
Community Marketing focuses on many things but the most important ones are as follows:
Community marketing through digital PR achieves the most important aspect of the business: Connecting to the customer. Thanks to the social media network and other digital PR platforms, that is possible for almost anybody to build communities and stay connected to them.
Types of Community Marketing
You can break them into many parts but the two starting points for your community marketing are either the Organic route or the Catalyst Route. Organic, as the name suggests is when marketing happens without any push by the brand. People talk about your brand, praise it, complain about it (please note, it is progressive and healthy to allow negative comments too – after all, we are all not perfect!) defend it, and even sell it for you. Why? Because they love your brand!
The Catalyst Route is the sponsored or pushed Content Marketing through various means: Promotions, launches, contests, etc. In short, there is an effort by the brand to keep the interest going.
Most brands should adopt both types of community marketing as one needs to be proactive and not assume that the community will do your work for you. Communities can disperse or the conversation can veer off from your brand and you might lose the connection with them. Hence, active management and moderation of your community is a rule you should follow without any exceptions.
No man is an island, and no customer acts alone.
Why is a community important? Let’s look at Shakespeare’s mob and get one answer. Then, let’s look at the instant fame that certain videos gather when they go viral and everybody is clamoring to see them. Human being’s intrinsic trait is to follow the crowd. Nothing is too sacrosanct. Buying things, almost anything is no longer a personal thing. People like to ask others: Their friends, families, and even strangers. They are not averse to getting all the details necessary even when they buy the simplest of things. People like to have prior information so that they are not disappointed by what they buy. They want to buy in the most convenient manner and that offers a value proposition that is better than the competition. However, there is no guarantee that they are getting the right advice or from the right people. In today’s world everybody is an expert on anything and everything, never mind if they know nothing at all about anything! Thus your potential customers end up with ‘not your brand.’
In such a scenario it makes common sense to have digital PR activities going on and a community that influences these potential customers with positive feedback.
There are a plethora of communities on the internet that are not brand-led but by a wide range of people/publishers. While some are altruistic, others are akin to publishers who build a community based on a common ideology or theme, some of them are on social media and some of them exist as websites and blogs. On social media platforms, there is a transparent and live conversation with multiple entry levels
to a conversation piece. On others, it is more like a discussion forum or comments and conversation in the thread. Both have their importance. Brands will find that their community members would be representing you in these external conversations and probably make a case for you.
What makes for good Community Marketing?
It’s not very complicated but neither is it as simple as it seems. Managing people is always a tricky business. And communities are people. So you need to handle them with care and diligence.
1. Earn the respect and admiration of your community by providing useful and the right information at all times.
2. Do not use just depend on promotions and money spending gimmicks to retain the interest of the community
3. Solve problems for the consumers. Show that you care.
4. Apologize for any inconveniences and faux pas in the brand or its delivery channel.
5. Associate with a CSR activity that appeals to the community
6. Transparency works
7. Build community leaders/moderators so that they become opinion leaders and keep the flock gilded to your mission
Some of the businesses that can make effective use of Community Marketing are Hospitality, Travel and Tourism Sector Telecom and Media Luxury, and Premium Brands Fashion, and Retail Food & amp; Beverages sectors.