10 Things Brands Need To Know Before Starting A Community

April 14, 2010

I was recently interviewed by Fast Company blogger Rich Brooks about building brand communities. It was a continuation of the discussion started at SXSWi. Here’s the resulting article “7 Things Brands Need to Know About Building Community” plus, three more tips here to round it out to a cool ten.

Community is not a campaign.

Brands will often throw together a community up (a Facebook page for example) for the sole purpose of a campaign. When the campaign is over they then wonder why the community is dead and no longer driving traffic all by itself. Community is a long-term commitment that requires ongoing nurturing and promotion.

Define goals that provide value to both the brand and  the audience. Then, allow them to evolve with the community.
Do not go into it without a goal that meets both the audience’s needs and the company’s needs. What can you provide to meet your audience’s personal objectives? As a company what do you have to offer them outside of just selling them a product? Define these goals ahead of time. They will evolve as your community evolves, and that’s okay.

Be where your audience is.

Your customers might be Facebookers but they might not be Tweeters. Take an audit of where your customers are and identify where your brand needs to be based on customer behavior. Focus is important in community building.

You can find  Rich on Twitter @therichbrooks for more great discussions about digital marketing.

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  • Jennifer Boyd

    Great interview. Building a brand is an ongoing process. Some businesses don’t realize how much work goes into community building. Glad to know there are agencies out there that can explain this process to the big brands.

  • Nick

    Hi Melonie,

    Great post with some real common sense. Interested to read your thoughts on brand community v campaign etc. I am involved in producing a campaign for a client which will have a finite life cycle so this is a ‘campaign’ with a specific set of objectives as opposed to a community with ongoing dialogue. Interesting distinction and not something I had thought about in this way.

    Should the end of a ‘campaign’ have a close then and asociated debriefing for the audience ?

    • Hi Nick, sorry my reply comes so late I somehow missed this. I’d characterize a campaign as an engagement with the audience that lives and dies. Relationship doesn’t die. A short term sweepstakes Twitter feed for example will not typically have the lifetime it needs to build traction.
      However I’ve seen community submissions such as story sharing work well for short term campaigns but I wouldn’t characterize a ‘submit your story’ contest site as a community, it’s more like a discussion in passing. Generally the best case scenario is to build audience around the brand, a brand Twitter feed for example, and continually push campaigns and other fresh content through it to the audience. Better than starting from scratch each campaign right? If the brand isn’t ready to commit to the marriage of long term community building I find outreach is a good option to tap into outside communities to support a campaign.