Community-led growth: from social media to branded community
Online communities are evolving – are you keeping up with your audience’s expectations? When people think ‘community’ their thoughts often jump to social media, but it isn’t the only option – or even the best one. Social media platforms are a good way to make those initial connections and explore more interactive relationships with an […]
Online communities are evolving – are you keeping up with your audience’s expectations?
When people think ‘community’ their thoughts often jump to social media, but it isn’t the only option – or even the best one. Social media platforms are a good way to make those initial connections and explore more interactive relationships with an audience, but it takes more than online conversations to build a thriving community around your brand. A community is about creating a more meaningful experience, developing a space where your customers can get information and support, create connections, and ultimately become advocates for your brand.
When we talk about community-led growth, we’re not talking about how many likes a post had on Instagram, or how many conversations on Twitter took place last month. We’re talking about building a focussed community that’s unique to your organisation – and delivers tangible growth.
Here, we explore community-led growth and how to evolve your own community-building methods to secure it.
First things first: what is community-led growth?
Community-led growth generates value beyond your product or service offering. It provides a full wraparound experience for every customer, giving support, sharing knowledge, making connections and educating them in how to effectively use your brand to make their life, or work, better. Where product-led growth focuses on continuing to evolve your product to meet customer needs, community-led growth focuses on driving customer satisfaction, loyalty, retention and engagement through support, knowledge, connections and enhanced experiences.
Every brand has a community – to drive growth, you need to nurture it
Every brand has a community: your customers, your prospects, your employees are all part of it. Yet just as in the villages, towns and cities we live in, some communities are more connected than others – it’s up to your organisation to bring that community together by creating a space that encourages interaction and sparks ongoing engagement – and in turn, attracts new members to that community.
A SaaS business, for instance, could use a community to drive growth by providing in-depth support that’s tailored to individual experiences, enhancing the product by connecting with the person using it and their circumstances – not just a list of features and an FAQ on the website.
For a B2B media organisation, an online community can build broader meaning around their content, by giving published material deeper context and forging meaningful connections between subscribers and experts.
Yet there are myriad other ways that any organisation can foster a sense of connection and inclusion in their community, forging stronger relationships with their audience by enhancing their value proposition.
Social media vs branded community: what is better to drive growth?
When developing your online community, is it better to delve further into spaces that your audience already inhabit – like social media or open online forums – or should you craft your own branded community? It really depends on what you want to achieve for your organisation: are you looking purely to reach out to your audience and create new avenues of communication, or do you want to foster a true sense of community around your brand?
If it’s the latter, online branded communities hold the advantage, and it’s here where online communities are evolving past an outreach tool and on to something more collaborative. They are effectively the next step up from joining a social media community, as they give more capability to create a personal, tailored space that can be carefully managed to deliver the audience’s expectations. It’s also a space that’s exclusive to your brand: you’re not sharing it with thousands of others competing for your audience’s attention every day.
What are the benefits of community-led growth?
Having your own branded online community enables you to bring your audience into the community-growth flywheel, which is effectively the digital evolution of the sales funnel. The flywheel is a continuous cycle of acquisition, adoption, retention and advocacy, that not only helps you to retain a loyal customer base but bring new customers into your community. This is community-led growth in a nutshell: delivering value to existing and new customers that goes beyond the product or service you offer.
The benefits are numerous, but the core advantages it brings to growth are:
Retention. Your community offers support and guidance that’s tailored to your audience. By listening and reacting to their needs, you are more likely to retain customers. And retention is the foundation for growth.
Loyalty. Do people really stay with a brand out of loyalty to a logo and a set of values alone, or is it because they get something back? Your online community develops a two-way relationship, giving something back to your audience in return for their loyalty to your brand.
Insight. Customer demands are changing at a faster rate than ever. Your online community allows you to listen in real-time to customer feedback and react quickly to bring those ideas and changes to life – enabling you to grow your offering in the right direction, based on genuine front-line insight.
Advocacy. Word-of-mouth recommendations are powerful, but limited to small networks of people. With an online community, you can turn every customer into an advocate for your brand but with a much wider reach.
5 tips for evolving your online community past social media
Building a thriving online community takes work and commitment, and you’re not going to achieve success over night. However, there are some tips that can get you started on your journey.
- Build a branded online community that’s tailored to your audience, on a flexible and easy to manage integrated platform.
- Develop a sense of exclusivity and personalisation with features that connect with your customer’s needs and interests.
- Give something back that enhances their brand experience. Use your community to provide support, connections, insight, and exclusive content they won’t find anywhere else.
- Use your existing communities – e.g, on your social media platforms, CRM, etc – to draw people towards your online community.
- Keep offering value. ‘Build it and they will come’ definitely does not apply to your online community: if you want people to come, and stay, and over time become loyal ambassadors for your organisation, you need to make sure you are demonstrating your value at every stage of their journey.
- Guide new habits. Social media use is habitual for your customers, visiting your community is not – yet. With features that keep instigating new interactions, like events or networking opportunities, visiting your community can soon become a regular habit.
In a crowded digital space, against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis, online communities are fast becoming your organisation’s most valuable asset to drive retention, loyalty and growth.
To find out more about building your own community at Zapnito’s online community.