Community-based marketing, or CBM, is one of the latest forays of marketers into personalization. The concept is simple, but the implementation can be challenging, even with big data tools.
The world of marketing has always been fluid and dependent on technology. You can see it easily in the infographic by HubSpot, tracing the marketing timeline. Until the widespread use of the Internet in 1995, the trends tended to take years or even decades to peter off.
However, digital technology has made it easier and more complicated for businesses to reach their audience simultaneously. Marketers can put their message out there without a problem, but the trick is getting people to pay attention.
Marketing professionals must monitor the situation all the time. Audiences have become much more demanding, and marketers must give them what they want, or else they lose interest.
For a time, influencer marketing was hot, but as of 2019, only 4% of consumers trust influencers and what they have to say about brands. That’s unfortunate for brands planning to invest $15 billion in influencer marketing in 2022.
But there appears to be one trend with some staying power: personalization. While some marketers consider it a buzzword, the fact is that it works in marketing. Moreover, it has been working well since 2007 when major airlines used personalization to compete against low-cost carriers. Forty-seven percent of US and UK marketers surveyed in 2020 saw at least 300% ROI on personalization spend.
So, it seems safe to say that personalization via community-based marketing strategies is a safe bet for marketing budgets. But what is community-based marketing?
This type of marketing strategy focuses on niche markets by tailoring messages around a group of people. While this group might typically refer to individuals in a specific geographic area, it is not always the case in marketing. In addition, the definition of “community” and “local” has evolved as perceptions shift in the digital space, especially in social media.
One survey reveals that 74% of Millenials and Gen Zers define these terms as a group of people with similar interests or mindsets. More importantly, the same study indicates that community-based social marketing deepens brand loyalty, which in turn improves conversion.
However, community marketing strategies are not new. One timeline identifies the first instance of community marketing as far back as 1895 with an agricultural magazine by John Deer. The purpose of the magazine was to use content to connect with customers. Soap operas and Tupperware parties were also early instances of community-based marketing strategies, which were very successful.
The success of these marketing tactics touches on a conservative view: humans are social creatures. Even B2B markets can benefit from them because decision-makers are also people, and they need to be around others as much as anyone else. But modern society is increasingly isolating people from each other. The harmful effects of the lockdowns forced on many people by the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate the importance of community.
Community marketing presents an exciting opportunity for marketers to engage audiences effectively. Familiarity with marketing channels such as websites and social media can work in their favor.
But community-based marketing entails significant planning and long-term investment. For example, a brand striving to create their own community, e.g., Tupperware parties, or creating a connection with an existing community needs to have a deep understanding of the motivations and pain points of the group.
Community-based marketing is hyper-targeted to a specific group of people that share a connection and environment. They have a common language, so to speak, and follow rituals and traditions acceptable to the whole group, creating a sense of moral obligation to serve each other.
Before considering marketing funnels, brand marketers must establish trust and credibility with a community. That often means consistency with messaging and willingness to listen and act on feedback.
As a marketer, you must demonstrate an affinity with the group by acknowledging, supporting, interacting, and giving value to community members. In turn, they provide you with loyalty and advocacy, drawing other people in and telling them about your brand.
The purpose of community building is to create a space where all members feel they belong. It could be online such as in forums, chat rooms, or social media groups. A community might also be offline, such as a neighborhood watch group or association.
The connection does not have to be personal. As long as the group serves the members' needs, it is a community. An excellent example of this is an online community for developers where people ask and answer questions regarding their various projects or issues with some software.
Disruptive and look-at-me marketing tactics are not going to work in such environments. Community marketing may not be easy, but its returns are fantastic when done correctly.
As with any undertaking, you want to get back more than you put in with community-based marketing. And you can do just that through the following:
Investing in community marketing pays back immediately because you minimize paid advertising costs on social media. Influencer marketing collectively costs brands billions, but it does not impress consumers as much as before. Focusing on creating opportunities for real conversations through community-based social marketing offers consumers more value at less cost. You use the same channels but with more authenticity.
Implementing effective community marketing strategies involves making a sincere effort to understand your audience. These include getting feedback through surveys, solving customer issues through forums, and inviting comments and insights on a particular topic. Aside from gaining valuable data about your customers, you make community members feel valued, thus improving their experience with your brand. Customers are willing to buy again and pay more if they have had a good experience with your product or service.
Getting positive reviews from individual buyers is great, but slow and inefficient. One of the best things about community marketing is that you have the potential to make a whole group of people happy at the same time. If you provide a professional community with a first-rate brand experience, you can multiply your positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations by the number of community members. That is tremendous organic growth.
But you need to be careful, as you can just as easily create a wave of bad reviews if you make a mistake. On the other hand, you can expect rapid growth in your community and revenue if you keep your ear on the ground to satisfy a group's needs.
The point of building a community is to connect people with similar tastes and lifestyles, promoting a sense of belonging and encouraging them to rely on each other for support and advice. That includes consultation about purchasing a product or service.
Suppose you want to maintain a consistent and relevant relationship with the community. In that case, you can quickly respond to and resolve any issues or complaints they may have about a product or service. That responsiveness can build brand trust and loyalty, which benefits your marketing funnels.
Successful CBM strategies enable you to connect and engage directly with buyers, making it easier to sell to them when the time comes. In addition, your approach tends to be more authentic because you (should) have a genuine relationship with community members. Think of it as selling to friends and family; they can trust what you say and have confidence they’re buying a good product or service.
Organic and authentic are the watchwords of many marketers because consumers demand them. These are built into effective community marketing because the power is in the hands of the members. Community members can freely share their experiences and opinions about a product or brand and post user-generated content for the benefit of everyone in the group. A brand that succeeds in making its target audience community feel valued has it made.
Community marketing can be highly effective in customer acquisition and increasing conversion rates, but it is not a walk in the park. Planning and implementing successful community-based marketing strategies for forums involve some challenging requirements.
Like traditional marketing tactics, the typical marketing hierarchy will not work with community marketing. Instead, community members prefer a personalized and authentic approach to communication, which requires dedicated distributed leadership.
Essentially, distributed leadership involves empowering many people to engage with community members to take on tasks. Your marketing team members make individual decisions on handling customer issues, meaning you have less control over the brand narrative. But if you train your team well, you will reap the benefits of this personalized approach.
Any marketing strategy requires data. Community marketing is no exception, and you deal with unstructured data. Comments, likes, and views on social media will inform and validate the success of your marketing approach.
You can also derive valuable insights into the networking efforts of members. For example, if they start new conversations and make new connections, it means your community is thriving. On the other hand, if members leave the community or grow silent, it indicates something is wrong with your engagement and needs attention.
As mentioned before, CBM is a long-term investment. You cannot build a community or a relationship with one overnight. Therefore, you will not see immediate increases in your revenue, but once you start seeing it, you will understand why the ROI for personalization is 300%.
Growing a community and establishing a relationship with its members is a never-ending cycle. Communities are made up of people, and people are constantly changing. You need to pay attention to what's happening in the group and changes in behaviors to respond quickly and pivot your approach as needed. When you listen to the members and communicate effectively, you will reap the rewards of community-based marketing.
Pro Tip: Leverage your user-generated content to tap into thousands of different value props, ideas, styles, and creative executions by thousands of diverse users and influencers.
Community marketing tactics are distinct from traditional ones and use different management tools to help make them more successful. Social listening, for instance, is critical for gathering user-generated content you can reuse for community engagement. Below are some practical strategies you can explore for your community outreach efforts.
Create a community space that reflects the values and identity of your brand where people can meet and talk about topics relevant to your organization. As a result, you gain valuable data, and user-generated content and build relationships all at the same time.
For example, if you sell high protein shakes, create a community that connects people on or interested in a keto diet. Consistently provide interesting and helpful content to keep them talking. Take on a moderation role to ensure it is a safe but stimulating place for members without taking over any conversations.
Be that cool parent who provides the snacks and lets kids do their thing, making your presence felt only when necessary. But, whatever you do, please do not use it as an advertising platform.
There are always people in a community with a strong presence who take a leadership role. Empower them to set down rituals and traditions for admission, participation, and behavior in the group. These rules will anchor the community and help define roles for the members.
Creating an exclusive, safe, and structured space for members can help turn them into word-of-mouth ambassadors and advocates for your brand. In addition, a well-structured and dynamic community is more attractive for non-members and will encourage them to join.
Many people are passionate about social causes and are more likely to patronize a business that champions a cause they support. Note that this is just as appropriate a tactic in B2B marketing as B2C.
Find a social cause your business can stand behind and make some noise about it by participating in relevant events and communities. When people identify your brand with a social cause, it can make community building easier because people will be eager to join. Social responsibility is sexy right now, so it is your opportunity to give back to the community and get something back from it.
Less sexy than social causes, but still an effective strategy is hosting a trade or targeted event relevant to community members. For example, you can hold a virtual or physical competition for members of your keto community every year where they can show off their protein-fueled bodies. Member-only events are a great way to grow a community.
An excellent way to build trust and credibility in a brand community is to share expert articles, insights, and advice relevant to your business. For example, you can open a discussion on your social media platforms for the best substitutes for banned foods on the keto diet. Agree, disagree, and comment on contributions from the members in constructive and informed ways. Sharing content demonstrates your grip on the subject and provides value to your audience.
While CBM is effective, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all businesses and organizations under all circumstances. Community marketing efforts are most effective for customer-centric brands that regularly launch new products, offers, and updates. CBM is for you if you need to do the following:
Community-based marketing is a form of personalization marketing that effectively builds trust and credibility in niche markets. It leverages the need for people to be in the company of like-minded others in a space where they can let their hair down, so to speak.
People perceive brands and organizations that use CBM for online communities as authentic and more likely to acquire the loyalty of their target market. You can head over to Archive.com to learn more about community marketing and its benefits.
But CBM is not easy, and it requires time and effort to get results. One of the things you need to do with community marketing is collect data about your target audience. An excellent source of that information is social media listening tools and user-generated content.
The Archive App is your best resource for user-generated content on Instagram (and soon TikTok) if you manage a Shopify store. Find out more about UGC and our tool by visiting our website. You can try it for free to save your first 100 posts.
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Use online communities to connect people with shared interests and mindsets in one place where you can easily network with them. You can provide a space for them to start conversations, collect feedback, and announce offers. Keep in mind that online communities are not your personal marketing platform. Always promote your brand and offerings in a non-intrusive and constructive way.
Anyone with a business can get into community-based marketing as long as you are customer-centric and have a deep understanding of your target market. However, it takes a significant investment in time and effort to build and nurture a community, so you need to commit to the strategy in the long term.
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