For all of us, the brands we support, and the products and services we choose to purchase make up a part of how we identify and present ourselves in the world. This can be as simple as people who wear Nike differentiating themselves from people who wear Adidas, or consumers who exclusively support environmentally conscious brands differentiating themselves from the everyday mass consumer. Whatever the specific niche, segment, or product is, communities expand and grow when a group of people unite through a shared interest in a topic or brand. For businesses, this provides a unique opportunity to grow these communities of brand advocates in order to grow your brand’s audience, help support those who are already advocates for your company, source feedback, and improve the usage of your product or service.
In recent years brand communities have increasingly transitioned to digital platforms. With the rise of digital marketing, this transition is natural as more and more business activities move online. The switch to digital brand communities has also been accelerated due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting elimination of physical opportunities for brands to connect with their audience. For many brands and organizations building a group online is the only effective and realistic way to generate this shared sense of community and shared interest.
But what does this mean for your business? Creating a digital brand community can seem like a daunting task, but there are a few ways to go about creating a brand community that can quickly and easily set you and your dedicated customer base up for success.
Customer Success/Help Center Capabilities: One primary benefit of building an online community is the ability to integrate this community into your current help center. Many brands create a forum-style community, where any member can ask or answer questions. Allowing customers to answer questions can take some weight off the shoulders of your customer success team, and ultimately has the potential to increase satisfaction with your brand’s customer service with quicker response times. This can also allow your most knowledgeable customers to make use of their extensive knowledge of your brand. Many brands take this one step further and reward the users who are most active on the forum, whether this activity is asking or answering questions. The reward can be anything from virtual gamification that includes special icons for achievements, to discounts off your product/service, or even exclusive merchandise.
Exclusivity builds belonging: Making your online community somewhat exclusive can be a massive benefit. The idea that group members are part of a “select group” makes each member feel a special sense of recognition, and can be effective in turning customers into grassroots brand advocates who help grow your audience.
Drive repeat sales/upsells: Brand groups can be an efficient method of increasing repeat sales or upsells. Being involved in a brand group in which other customers are sharing the way they use your product, or discussing why they love a specific product can increase the probability that other customers make repeat purchases or upsell to a more expensive plan. This is essentially free testimonial marketing that can make a brand community very profitable.
Foster creativity and product ideas: This is especially relevant for brand communities that have a creative element to them that is constantly pushed and improved through user action such as brands like Adobe, Issuu, and Canva. Product suggestions and especially creative use-case examples can be an excellent source of inspiration for the brand itself when looking to optimize or expand its platform.
Now that we have a clearer understanding of why creating a brand community is beneficial, let’s take a look at how this process actually works. There are two primary ways of hosting a digital community: a custom-built and hosted community or using a current social media platform.
Custom Built: Building a custom brand community online has a number of advantages for larger brands that have the engineering capability to construct a community that lives within your existing website or mobile app. These communities can be fully customized with whatever functionality perfectly suits your brand and can include unique visual elements that make the community feel extremely distinct. However, investing the time and resources needed to create this type of community is not always worth it for brands.
Social Media: Social media, and particularly Facebook, is another option for creating a virtual community that is the perfect option for brands that are looking to set something up as quickly and efficiently as possible and also reach a large number of people. The popularity of platforms like Facebook means that more people will be able to find and join your brand, especially if you are creating a group that is open to more than just current customers/users. Learn more about Facebook group creation, in our blog post “How To Use Facebook for Business”.
Description: Having a clearly defined description is an absolute necessity when creating a digital brand community. This is helpful from an internal perspective in that it assures your whole company is aligned on what the purpose of the group is and what content should be included in the group. It is also helpful for new members so they know what content they should post. In the description, it is often helpful to include an initial prompt that encourages new users to introduce themselves and how they use your product or service.
Community Guidelines: A clear set of community guidelines is also very important, especially as your brand group grows in size. This is also helpful internally so that the whole brand understands what content is acceptable and what is not. Additionally, a set of community guidelines are important when dealing with spam - if you ever have to remove users from the group, referencing a specific rule they violated is an effective way of backing up your actions.
Moderators: Another group component that is absolutely vital when your group starts to grow, is making sure you have a large enough moderation team. When you first start your group, moderators can help by posting content that encourages interaction and sets an example for the types of posts that are recommended. As the group grows, moderators are necessary in order to make sure any conflicts are de-escalated and any spam is removed.
Now that your group has been created, finding content to post during the initial stages of growth can be tricky, when you are still trying to encourage group members to post and ask questions of their own accord. The following suggestions are a great place to start when generating a content strategy for a digital group:
Product Releases: Let your group know what updates or changes are coming. This is not only informative but offers the group early access to this information which helps to increase the atmosphere and sense of belonging to the group.
Questions/Answers: As mentioned above, creating a digital community can integrate perfectly into your Help Center. Asking and answering questions is a great way to organically get this started.
Unique Use Cases: Showcase your most exciting and unique customers. This can help increase sales and can inspire your other users to get creative and experiment. These posts also often encourage significant conversation, which can be a great way to increase the level of engagement.
Industry-Related News: Sharing industry news is an excellent way to broaden the scope of the content in your group so you are not always promoting your own product or service. Keeping this within the industry is an excellent way to assure your audience is still interested in the content you post.
Polls: Boosting the level of interactivity inherent in your content is vital when it comes to keeping engagement numbers up. Experiment with polls to help motivate your audience to participate.
Now that we have explored what goes into creating a digital brand community, let’s take a look at Issuu’s very own digital community - the Issuu Creator Community Facebook group. This group is a place for Issuu creators to share their publications and unique use cases, discover Issuu tips and tricks, get community assistance and advice, stay up to date with the latest Issuu developments, and ultimately become inspired to take their content to the next level.
Join the Creator Community today, and get inspired by the amazing creators using the Issuu platform!