Community marketing is a powerful way to grow customer loyalty, generate referrals, and boost revenue.
But to see those outcomes materialize, you need the right community marketing strategy.
In this article, we’re talking you through the 6 best community marketing strategies you can use to generate growth.
6 community marketing strategy tips
A truly valuable and engaged community isn’t built in a day. It’s built over time through concerted efforts and strategy. You’ll test, learn, and improve until you find out what works to grow your community.
But to get you started with community based marketing, here are our 6 favourite strategies.
1. Create a trusted space
A powerful thing happens when you give people a community-owned space to connect and share knowledge. They will begin talking about their experiences with your brand and product.
This can lead to customer recommendations and higher word of mouth marketing, which is known to be effective. In fact, 90% of consumers* trust a brand more if a peer recommends it.
At the start, community building requires you to focus on creating the conditions for the community to grow. That is, establishing opportunities for people to forge connections (by setting up rooms, discussions, or community events), and then making common goals and behaviors that reinforce a sense of belonging.
Creating an engaged community for your users encourages them to check back regularly and participate. Ultimately it breeds brand loyalty, improves the customer experience of your product or service, and generates long term value for users.
Take, for example, Wilmington Healthcare’s OnMedica community. This offers GPs and specialist doctors a trusted space to network and learn from their peers. It features clinical reference material and expertise, education, news, views, and comments.
Through it, members get a one-of-a-kind community experience that improves their clinical knowledge and patient care. And Wilmington Healthcare benefits from an engaged expertise source to inform its market understanding and services.
How to build a community users trust
Each community experience will differ depending on what members like and respond to the most.
For some, an on-the-go lifestyle means short conversations, videos, and snappy articles work best. For others, more in-depth written pieces and longer discussions might help them dive into their interests and challenges.
Over time, you’ll be able to use data generated by the community (as they post or interact) to understand what topics and content most resonate with them.
At the start, there might not be enough data — so engage with focus groups of your target members and gather their feedback through one-to-one or group sessions, looking at their marketing and social media habits, or polls and surveys.
2. Share community expertise
What will differentiate your brand community from competitors’ offerings?
Members will interact with a community that gives them an edge, whether that’s in doing their job better, understanding the market more, or even knowing how to use your product effectively. For example a marketer is more likely to join a community that shares insights from a marketing expert.
All engagements within your community need to come from a space of adding as much value as possible. So experts (both from your organization and from the wider industry) can help you add a lot of value to members, with relative ease.
As part of Springer Nature’s communities, various experts are invited to share their thoughts and experiences.
Research paper authors share their personal stories behind their latest findings or offer insights on what happened after they published their research. Editors tell members about their work and what it takes to be published in a Springer Nature publication.
This builds trust between editors, researchers, members, and the Springer Nature brand.
How to use experts in your community
You could invite a well-known speaker to do a fireside chat during a community event.
Alternatively, an author could provide a first look at an upcoming book chapter.
You could interview industry influencers for unique perspectives on challenges your members are having.
And, of course, your customers are experts too and can join your community to regularly engage with members.
As for your internal experts, you might have a product manager who can contribute ‘insider secrets’ on using your product better. Or your CEO might wish to do a series on their perspective about sector trends and the brand’s future trajectory.
This still helps to market your brand and products, just in a more informative way. Whatever you decide on, make sure it’s exclusive to the community so people feel like they’re missing out if they don’t join.
3. Hold (and take part in) events
Hosting events is a straightforward way to create shared meaning and traditions within your community.
Physical events can provide a space outside of an online community for members to meet face-to-face and strengthen their connections.
Online events can complement communities by uniting people at a specific time, around a specific topic, in a shared experience.
Events and communities have a crucial component in common that makes them natural marketing channels. They’re both meant to spur discussions and ideas. Event topics can even be carried over to your community pages.
How to use event marketing to fuel community engagement
You can choose to partner with events that attract potential customers, host an event yourself to prevent churn among existing customers, or do both.
Bear in mind that events are quite resource-intense to plan effectively, so make sure you do your research beforehand on what would attract members to take part and how to engage them afterward.
Your existing community can be a fantastic resource for this. Ask members about events that excite them, what event formats they prefer, and speakers they want to see. Plus, go through community analytics to understand popular topics for your event track.
4. Use your community to direct your business
Your community gives you direct access to the opinions and feedback of your target customer.
This can be used to improve your product and service so that you can create a happy customer base who is then more likely to recommend and positively review your brand.
You should take the opportunity to study what your community talks about and leverage data where possible. You should also be direct in your approach by running polls, heading discussions, and posting surveys.
Asking your community for feedback on what they like about your products and what could be improved is a useful way to design your products exactly around their needs and build customer loyalty.
The added bonus is, using your community for research can save you money on market research because you have a focus group at the ready.
It’s not all about the product, either. Your community can spur ideas for marketing and sales that increase inbound leads.
Topic data and user generated content could inform your content marketing, discussions could pinpoint specific challenges for the sales team to leverage, and members can directly tell you what attracted them to your brand in the first place.
How to use your community to improve your business
Your product development team can communicate directly with members to better understand how they use your products and to gather insights for future iterations.
Customer support can look at questions posted to your community to see where common issues are occurring. This can improve your product, but also feed into FAQs and knowledge bases.
You could even offer exclusive access to early product launches and beta testing to gather more community feedback.
And you could test new community marketing concepts before rolling them out to wider audiences.
5. Find your community’s niche
For many years one of the main goals for marketers was to gain mass-market appeal through a widespread, general ad campaign.
But now, to cut through the noise, it’s best to niche down.
In a community sense, this may look like a community of specific individuals like C-Suite executives or marketing professionals, or focus on a key topic or purpose like bioengineering or wildlife conservation.
Creating a community around a niche subject will increase the relevancy and value of your brand. It builds deeper connections with your target audience.
A community can also act as an incubator and test for more general marketing concepts. After all, if something doesn’t resonate with your niche audience then it probably won’t speak to larger audiences either.
6. Add value and monetization
Your brand community must add value to your organization and be able to prove this to wider stakeholders. This ensures buy-in from senior leadership (and wider afield in the company). It also makes it easier to get investment for future community marketing efforts.
Business value comes when your community is highly aligned with your business goals. Building your community marketing strategy on this foundation ensures that every key performance indicator (KPI) directly ties with bottom-line growth.
For some organizations and communities, value may come from leads generated, event attendance growth, customer support efficiencies, or optimizing a marketing strategy.
For others, a community can be monetized to become a new revenue stream for the business.
How monetization works in practice
Monetization can take many forms from subscriptions, where members have the option to pay for exclusive access and perks, to store links that drive traffic to purchase products and services, or sponsorship and advertising within your community.
If you choose to go down this route, it’s worth testing a few monetization ideas with members first to make sure your community remains valuable to them, trusted, and authentic.
In the Springer Nature community, for example, additional monetization opportunities have arisen through sponsored content marketing campaigns with Dior.
Meanwhile, for internal communications brand simplycommunicate, having an online community running alongside its annual event ‘simplyIC’ led it to reach a wider, global audience, trend on Twitter, and almost double its attendance figures.
See ongoing community growth with Zapnito
Building an effective and trusted brand community that grabs your audience’s attention takes time.
No successful community is launched in a single event. Instead, it takes multiple prompts with community members, many different topics, and lots of interactions to build a thriving community.
Over time, the community itself will become a unique value proposition for your brand, helping to set you apart in the market and becoming a major influence for your marketing, sales, and operations.
If you’re ready to learn more about what community marketing could do for your brand, request a demo today or send an email to email@example.com.
Why is community marketing powerful?
Communities tap into our need to socialize and learn from our peers.
They create tight-knit associations between an individual’s identity and the brands they align with. This is especially true with younger generations (Gen Z* specifically) who are more purpose-driven than their predecessors.
Community-based marketing connects customers with a brand, in a more authentic way than traditional marketing and advertising efforts.
The best communities provide a space for people to communicate, engage in community networking, exchange ideas, learn, and create mutual experiences around shared interests.
What are the three components of a brand community?
Brand communities can be identified broadly by three key characteristics*.
Understanding these components can help you when starting to develop your community marketing strategy.
- People: A group of people with common goals and interests come together and differentiate themselves identity-wise from those outside the community.
- Acts and behaviors: They carry out specific acts and behaviors that solidify their culture and the meaning of the community.
- Belonging and accountability: People understand the need to help other community members and work together to achieve goals. This fosters a sense of belonging to the community.
It’s worth noting that the above characteristics describe all types of community (in-person, local, and online).
Whereas in the past, a community would develop around a neighborhood, local small businesses, or events, the growth of online communities has expanded the potential of community marketing beyond geographical limits.
An online community can create strong relationships between members no matter their location.
It can increase access to knowledge and resources for members in remote areas and connect people who otherwise wouldn’t meet in real life.