As consumers, we’re more connected than ever before. Nowadays, it is about more than just buying into a product or service, we are buying into a company’s ethos and values.
Our need to be informed, educated, inspired and entertained online is undoubtedly influencing the way we want to interact with brands. Equally, it’s shaping the way brands long to engage and communicate with their customers — there is an evident desire to create more of an emotional connection with customers, helping to build brand affinity and loyalty.
As a result, online communities are on the rise — they’re not just a space to simply leave comments, they have become a ‘hub’ and a network for users to connect with one another and for brands to humanise themselves, looking beyond the ‘business only’ exterior.
While some of these brand communities have been around for a number of years, it’s worth noting that, more recently, in today’s current climate, community participation has peaked quite significantly — especially across retail, tech, and entertainment industries (highlighted in the data below). This can be explained by the fact that more people are searching for new ways to communicate online, as they are spending an increased amount of time on the internet — and there are signs that this shift towards digital and changes in consumer behaviour will more than likely have a lasting effect as we move into the new normal. With that being said, some brands are now having to adapt to cater for their target audiences.
So, why do customers join these communities?
- For their voices to be heard and to feel valued
- Inspiration — sharing ideas, thoughts, and concerns
- Information — looking for answers to their questions
- A sense of unity and to feel like they are part of something bigger
- To empower and support others
- To interact and build relationships with other like-minded individuals through common interests
- Access to behind-the-scene content — gaining insight into a brand on a deeper level
What can brands provide customers by doing this… and why?
- Let them know you are listening — building a sense of trust and reassurance
- Get to the heart of their pain points — truly understand their needs
- Unlock other interests and habits of your customers
- Nurture your audience — reward them with exclusive content, tips, offers, competitions
- Share expert knowledge and advice
All of these first-hand insights will help to influence, grow, and adapt your business and marketing decisions to suit customer demand. After all, who better to tell you what your customers want than your customers themselves?
What are the different types of online communities?
- Private or public social media pages/groups
- Unique/branded hashtags
- Dedicated apps and websites
Who is doing this well?
There are many brands out there who have successfully proven the importance of community groups online. While these are just a handful of examples, perhaps they will inspire you to explore how you can foster meaningful communities among your customers.
Canva Design Circle: a private Facebook community for design enthusiasts to share and learn new creative tips and tricks
Airbnb Community Centre: a platform to connect with other Airbnb hosts, get support and share their hosting experiences and knowledge
Fitbit Community: a space for Fitbit users to ask and answer questions on products and services, and exchange general health and fitness wisdom with others
Deezer Community: connecting fellow app users through their love of music, allowing them to spark conversations with other fans, see what’s trending and discover app tips
Ultimately, we are in a time where consumer needs are ever-evolving and these digital communities really help to eliminate the disconnect between buyer and seller — instead, customers become part of the ‘brand family’ and a more personalised consumer-centric experience can be created as a result — so it’s a win-win!
Author: Neesha Gill is an Account Manager at Curated and has a background in building & fostering client relationships and project-managing multi-channel digital marketing campaigns for a number of brands in B2B and B2C industries — from food & drink, to retail, finance, tech and tourism.