Community-building is an exciting prospect. The simple act of engaging with your audience — and encouraging them to connect with one another — has tangible business benefits. It increases brand awareness, improves customer service, and earns your brand loyal fans. And a whopping 80% of brands say that their community-building efforts have resulted in increased traffic. But where do you begin? Cold emails? Social media outreach? Free livestream events?
Below, we’ll walk through seven proven community-building strategies that help you listen to your audience, develop valuable content, and above all, foster strong relationships. We’ve also included real-world examples to get your creative wheels turning. Let’s dive in.
1. Segment your audience
Separating your base into segments may seem counterintuitive to community-building, but it’s vital for effective communication.
The days of one-to-many messaging are over. Customers expect personalized interactions with the brands they follow. A single tone-deaf email can cause your community members to question whether they’re buying from the right company.
To build a thriving network, offer engagement opportunities that are as diverse as your customer personas. Kraft Heinz did this to promote their “My Food and Family” content hub with recipes and cooking tips. They created two distinct campaigns: “Realistically Gourmet,” targeting millennials, and “Taming Life’s Chaos,” targeting millennial families.
Tailor your outreach using common segments include age, location, lifestyle, values, personality traits, and hobbies.
2. Create vibrant community spaces
Your prospects, customers, and followers need a place to congregate offline and online. When half of the world’s population is talking, sharing, and learning on social media, it isn’t a bad place to start. Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, and Pinterest can all serve as a hub for your community.
Unlike a community forum on your website or in-person event, these sites are widely available and come with engaged and active users baked in. Draw from your market research and customer data to determine which platform is the best place to start.
Finally, don’t underestimate the value of in-person community events, whether it’s a free concert or networking event. Your brand doesn’t always have to directly host the event. For example, Duolingo helps their language learners meet up for practice sessions and fun cultural events using their website.
3. Spark conversation and provide value
The number one aspect of community-building your company has control over is content generation. It’s a great way to get to know your community members, keep them in the loop on topics that matter to them, and show that you have your ear to the ground.
That said, there’s a big difference between posting content and cultivating a community. Focus on the types of content that drive engagement, such as quizzes, polls, interesting videos, contests, and newsletters. Encourage people to leave comments and questions, and carve out time to respond.
Marketing and research tools like Hubspot, BuzzSumo, Sprout Social, and SparkToro can help you understand how your followers are interacting with your brand.
4. Highlight user-generated content
One of the best community-building strategies at your fingertips also requires the least amount of effort: user-generated content (UGC).
Customers crave authenticity, and there’s nothing more authentic than real-life people sharing their thoughts and feelings. In fact, consumers are 2.4x more likely to say user-generated content is authentic compared to brand-created content.
Sharing and promoting UGC — whether it’s pictures of your product or funny Tweets about your service — humanizes your brand and shows that you’re truly listening to your community.
TurboTax delivered a fun take on this tactic with their “Real Customer Reviews” commercials, in which actors simply read positive product reviews. You can get the conversation by creating a unique hashtag or requesting user submissions in exchange for gifts or discounts.
5. Tap into influencer marketing
A creator partnership can offer a boost to your community-building campaigns or help you develop an engaged customer base in the first place. Influencers help brands create goodwill by lending credibility to their marketing messages while expanding their reach to a wider audience.
You can use Popular Pays to discover some of the best talent in one place. Our network features over 60,000 influencers and content creators across a variety of industries and verticals. Find the perfect partner in seconds by using search filters like location, skill, social network, follower count, and more.
Another tip is to ask for influencer recommendations from your community members. It can build hype around the upcoming collaboration and get more eyes on the campaign overall.
6. Create regular feedback loops
Coming up with the right balance of content, events, and initiatives for your budding community is a time-consuming process for any marketing team. You can save time and land on the right community-building activities faster by asking for feedback on a regular basis.
Scheduled surveys, focus groups, and community forums are all effective tools. They also allow you to unlock another benefit of meaningfully engaging with your community: product and service improvement. Requesting feedback could lead to unique insights into product usage and customer journeys you wouldn’t have received otherwise.
It’s called a “loop” for good reason. Successfully executing this step involves receiving, analyzing, and incorporating the data you’ve gathered into your overall strategy, and then updating your users and community members.
Finally, feedback serves as a “reality checker.” Community initiatives and solutions that might seem perfect when rolling out may turn out to be the off-base after a focus group or two.
7. Incentivize and reward contributions
Community-building is a two-way relationship, so you’ll need to get creative to encourage participation from new and current members. Here are some measures that can motivate your audience:
- Community badges, awards, points
- Free event invitations
- Exclusive content offers
- Merchandise and “swag”
- Gift cards
- Free courses or lessons
- Product or service giveaways
People respond to these strategies — 61% of customers say that surprise gifts and offers are the best way to engage with them. You may also be able to attract new members by unlocking access to certain product or service features. Appreciation and recognition goes a long way, too. A share or social media shoutout could be all you need to keep participation high.
Grow your community to grow your business
Invest in a strong brand community and you’ll earn a loyal customer base that will advocate for your company, speak up with concerns and opportunities, and stick around for years to come. Use the 12 community-building strategies we’ve covered to start forging that lasting connection.
Want to get a jumpstart on your community-building efforts? Reach out to our team to learn more.