The Power of Engaged Brand Communities

2020 has been a little like going nine rounds, blindfolded, against a fighter two weight classes higher and ten times faster. Somehow — almost illogically — we keep getting up.

Back in March, we suggested the adversity of this year had triggered our innate drive to protect each other. Five months later, an irrefutably remarkable, astonishingly cogent force continues to precipitate from the mayhem: the power of community. We watch in awe as human kindness, courage and empathy fuels movements to shield the vulnerable, support the front-line and amplify stifled voices.

If you have a brand, and you feel like you’re watching the power of community from the outside rather than experiencing it firsthand — we got you. Read on for the what, why and how of community engagement. If you’re not in the mood for reading at the moment — we still got you. Click here for the low-down via video.

What Is an Engaged Brand Community?

An engaged brand community is not an audience. Post the soapbox and megaphone on Kijiji. Here are the key hallmarks of engagement:

  • Communication isn’t ‘one-to-many,’ it’s conversational, and it’s happening within the community.
  • Community members are content creators for the brand.
  • Customers continue to engage with the brand beyond products or services.
  • Relationships transcend transactional and become emotional, lasting bonds.
  • Super-critical-won’t-happen-without-this-key: the brand generously provides value to its community.

What Is The Power of Engaged Brand Communities?

Skeptics will tell you there’s no ROI in social media marketing. To this we say, you’re doing it wrong.

Engaged communities are incredibly valuable. Their impact on a brand’s bottom line can look like:

Increased Revenue
  • Engagement (a.k.a. brand loyalty) = customer retention, increased purchase frequency and higher lifetime customer value.

Decreased Expenses
  • Reduced marketing costs
    • The Golden Goose of on-and-offline marketing — free, organic, dripping with credibility and legitimacy WOM — is yours when you earn an engaged community.
  • 88% of online buyers use reviews to inform their purchase decision (extra points for brands that respond to bad reviews and customer questions). Happy, engaged brand advocates leave amazing reviews that carry the same clout as personal recommendations. It’s also okay (if you’re winning at engagement) to ask your community to leave reviews on your site or platforms such as Google My Business, the Better Business Bureau or Yelp.
  • Engaged communities trump any PR firm when it comes to defending a brand under fire.
  • Reduced product development costs
    • A quick trip to the comments will tell you if something could be better, offered in a different colour, isn’t quite priced right, or is perfect and appreciated.
    • Your community will tell you exactly what product or service they want from you that you don’t offer yet. No guessing, no gamble.

What Is The Power of Engaged Brand Communities?

1. Start with why (as in the ‘why’ of your brand)
  • Your core values will be your North Star.
    • Your pillars are what your community connects with on an emotional level, not your products or services.
    • They will expect integrity — it’s critical for your actions to align with your values.
2. Know your people
  • Who are they?
    • Basic segmentation data such as demographics & psychographics
    • The deeper insights that tell you why they align with your core values
  • Where are they?
    • If you’re only hearing crickets on one platform, there’s a chance your community is simply somewhere else.
  • What do they need?
    • Beyond your product-or-service-based offering, how can you serve your community?
      • Access – share (as much as is comfortable) your home life or inner ponderings
      • Appreciation – rewards, giveaways and shoutouts show love to your community
      • Action – support a cause that aligns with your pillars to walk-the-talk for your community
  • Needs will differ based on where a member is in the Customer Value Journey.
    • New members need to feel welcome and understand how to navigate their way around the community
    • Initiated insider needs can vary from acknowledgement and validation to consistency and routine.
    • Veteran members that have lost that loving feeling may need something special to spark the connection again (Pro Tip: you can straight-up ask them — this is why transparency and trust-building are so important)
3. Do it with love
  • Proactively engage with your community.
    • Like, share and comment on their posts.
  • Be generous, sincere and committed to providing value to your community.
  • Nurturing > convincing: foster what’s happening organically and avoid trying to steer the vibe in an unnatural direction. It’s about them, not you.
4. Be transparent

This means being open, vulnerable and accountable.
Transparency is more valuable than perfection in building trust — admit when you’re wrong and let your community know what steps you’re taking to be better.
Avoid deleting negative comments. Demonstrate strong leadership by responding with empathy rather than defensiveness. Try something like, “Can you help me understand that comment more?” or “I appreciate your passion on this subject – please email me @ so we can have a one-on-one conversation so I can learn more.”

5. Create and uphold community guidelines

  • If bullies show up, your job is to keep your forums a safe place for the community.
  • Be firm and fair, yet objective. Bullies love to make a scene — don’t take the bait.

6. Invest in building an exceptional team

  • In a recent Calgary Marketing League Meetup, YYC & YEG Cycle Co-founder (and seriously engaged brand community steward) Andrew Obrecht said, “great clients make the best employees.”
    • It’s the hardest part of building a brand, but finding (and keeping) people that love your brand as much as you do is incredibly important. They’re the roots of the entire community.
  • An engaged internal team is your frontline ambassadors that listen to and understand the community. They know the solution to almost every engagement dilemma you may encounter.

7. Personalize the experience

  • The more you know about your community, the more you can tailor your engagement initiatives to them
    • Glossier has leveraged Slack and Instagram in ways that cater to how their community wants to participate in building the brand.
    • Adidas’ Creator’s Club and Lululemon’s Ambassador Program trade engagement for the type of fitness-specific rewards their communities value.
  • Location, location, location.
    • The ‘local’ aspect of online community engagement is often overlooked, but tapping into hometown pride is a powerful way to inspire action.

Engagement is Worth the Effort

With a little love and commitment, engaged brand communities can bloom organically with business and karmic dividends. Drop us a line if you’d like to chat more about the what, why or how.

The Calgary Marketing League took a deep dive into this topic recently — check out the video for some bonus community engagement tips.

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