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A beginner's guide to building your online brand community

Friends hanging out in a field, seen from behind.

The benefits of community building through an online brand community are undeniable, whether you're a niche expert, an online course designer, or a Fortune 500 company. Community satisfaction can help you retain consumers, improve income, and turn your followers into engaged ambassadors while driving traffic to your website. Given that one of the sources of competitiveness is websites, creating a brand community becomes a streamlined sales funnel to get leads.

But building an online community from the ground up can be overwhelming, especially if your experience in this area is limited. Good thing is, we're here to help your brand gain community satisfaction. In this article, we'll show you what it takes to build your online community and help strengthen your brand through better client conversations based on knowledge about customer needs.

What is a Brand Community?

In the advent of the internet explosion, a brand community rallies your most loyal customers in one place that extends in spaces beyond your physical business. Think of it as an active group of like-minded people who love what you do and are simply fun to hang around with.

Everyone in your brand community is emotionally invested. You can count on these people to buy from your company, engage with your content, and can even go as far as telling their family and friends about your company. They can be your greatest asset when it comes to anti-brand communities. You got that right! A brand community is what community commitment and brand loyalty look like, in their purest form. They got your back against online anti-brand communities.

But remember, a brand community is not brand awareness. Just because someone is familiar with your brand or has purchased a product or service from you doesn't guarantee that they are part of your community. Based on managerial implications, your brand community is an engaged community or a group of people who share your products or services with others, follow your social media posts, read your content, and like being part of everything you do as a brand.

Why build an online brand community?

When you consult any journal of marketing or journal of consumer research,  findings on online brand communities are the same. For one, online brand communities positively affect brand trust and repurchase intention.

An online brand community is an active community or a group of people who interact and communicate with one another on a platform. Communities like these can be anything from a 1 billion-person Instagram community to a 10-person food-loving community that uses a closed Facebook group to review cafes and restaurants in their city. The most important thing is to achieve community satisfaction.

One of the key factors companies should know is, your brand community is a business tool. Because of behavioral loyalty, a brand community is a great resource on innovative approaches for product ideas, product development, reducing support costs, and most of all, getting more sales. This is why management should put community commitment as a top priority.

Imagine being able to reach out to a group of people who use your product or service on a regular basis. You can use this group to try out new product mockups, inquire about upcoming feature releases, share blog posts, and gather general feedback for improvement purposes. So, if you think that your brand is far from being community-friendly, think again. There's nothing quite like the perks of community satisfaction. 

Point is, understanding what type of online community is best for your brand is the first step in developing your own community. To do this, ask yourself: what kind of online community does my target market need?  After answering that, the next thing to do is find this community, establish a direct connection with them, and devise a strategy for how members of the community can interact with one another.

Make sure you're developing a healthy community that thrives and rewards your community members since this community can assist your brand make customer-driven decisions and spread the news about your business.

How to build a successful online brand community

Without a doubt, there are people out there who love everything about your brand. All you need to do is build a space especially for them and engage with them intentionally to reach community satisfaction. So, here are some essential steps to help you create the best brand community for you.

1. Be organized. Identify key team members for your online brand community

Just like a company has CEOs and managers, you need team members who are dedicated to performing the key role of building your brand community. For role clarity, there should be a community manager whose job is to handle everything related to your community, assuring things run smoothly. They should have knowledge about customer experiences and needs. Think of the community management as the community's COO. Community commitment will follow if their needs are met.

2. Define your brand community's KPIs, goals, and metrics

Since brand communities are a reliable way to make information- and customer-driven decisions about your product or service, develop a good community strategy by answering these questions:

  • What is the purpose behind creating the online brand community? 
  • Is the brand community going to help people get answers about your product or service? 
  • What are your strategies for community building, consumer engagement, and brand community satisfaction? 
  • How will you measure the brand community's success? Which metrics will you track? 
  • How can the brand community help with the company's goals? 
  • How can the online brand community answer the needs of an average customer? 

You'll be able to make informed decisions based on a brand community marker that'll surface in asking those questions. You'll also get a quick outlook on what your balanced scorecard ought to be.

3. Choose the appropriate community platform

The next thing to do is figure out which community platform among social networking sites your community is most active. Thinking about how many people you want to grow this community into is one of the important aspects of facilitating positive community engagement behaviors. Will it be among bilingual brand communities?  Among the common community, platforms are forums, social media platforms, affiliate programs or rewards as community benefits, or third-party community platforms to further strengthen community commitment and communication.

Quick Tip: If you're thinking of creating a 10-person community, go for a group chat in WhatsApp or a group DM on Instagram. If you're after establishing a community of about 100,000 and more people, create a Facebook group or use Reddit. Maximize online brand community engagement by being at the right place and the right time.

A forum makes it easy for people to talk about their shared interests whether it's directly about the brand or not. For social media, you can choose to engage with your community through the platform itself or by creating a group to give them special treatment. You can also use branded hashtags on social media platforms or your social media content in building your community. People can easily get access to products and keep the conversation with their posts that use these branded hashtags on their social networking sites. You'll build brand loyalty and user-generated authenticity through the community's actual behavior. Setting up a forum is always a go-to strategy for online brand community engagement.

One of the most important aspects of community engagement is establishing a rewards mechanism. Rewards can hone in on your online brand community by creating a program that gives back to your loyal customers and referrals. Affiliate programs, on the other hand, are another way to reward people who refer others to your business. For every person they refer, they earn a payout. This additional contribution is effective in growing a brand community and strengthening both behavioral loyalty and attitudinal loyalty. As a community marker, rewards are one of the most effective approaches to business.

Third-party community platforms allow you to set up various topics/channels for community members to check what conversations are about and would naturally be part of.

Quick Tip: Whichever platform you choose, remember to develop rules and norms so that behavior within communities is kept at bay. Even if your brand community is serving your members, this doesn't mean that they make or change the rules. Ensure that any average customer in your community is a safe place by implementing rules to avoid company exploitation. You can also go as far as assigning anti-brand community administrators to prevent social-media-based anti-brand communities from getting in. You'll be able to avoid negative engagement and conflict resolution situations this way.

Online Community: Make it thrive

To increase brand awareness, leads, and conversions, you need an online brand community. It can be one of your most effective marketing channels or marketing strategy if you have a clear goal and keep them in check. They are a proven marketing approach for practically any industry because they build strong and lasting relationships between brands and customers.

So, to make your online brand community engagement thrive and increase behavioral loyalty, one of the best practices out there is to be open to adjusting your marketing strategies to how members are responding whenever you engage them and strive to give them a great customer experience. Remember, when it comes to community building, your company should serve your members. Do what you can to give them special treatment and make them feel appreciated through online community benefits that help you achieve community satisfaction.

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