The currently successful brands have recognized that empowered customers/users now want and have three key things in common:
- they have a high standard of excellence - the message here is do the best you can and when you can't, apologize, learn and improve quickly
- they want to be able to participate - they want stuff their way and you need to listen to what they have to say or they may and frequently do act against you
- when the right group of people are treated the right way, they can provide an amazing roster of brand advocacy, support, content and insight when executed right
Brand communities bridge the gap between an organization, brand and person. The barriers between a company and what was previously labeled the consumer are down. Attributable to the social web, at no other time has there been the opportunity to efficiently engage a sufficiently large group of vested people in your brand efforts.Why is it most of us marketers aren't taken advantage of this newfound ability? (there are five big reasons but I'll leave that for another post).
The new imperative is to take the people who used to be one of consumers, users or customers, intrigue them enough to become Brand Authors, Producers, Scouts, Testers, Collaborators & Broadcasters and in doing so, transform them into Brand Community Members, Advocates, Ambassadors and Evangelists .
Although sharing some attributes of a CRM program, user-generated content promotion or a social network, we've defined brand community differently. In our view, a brand community is "a group of people with a set of shared interests attached to a company/brand/product/idea, having the intention to improve its business operations for themselves and/or the brand’s benefit"
Brand communities are brand rallying touchpoints and destinations for fans, enthusiasts and influencers, They have longevity, they share goals between member and company and they are formed for direct or indirect benefit to the brand's performance Unlike a social network like Facebook which operates as a brand media platform and a means to a brand engagement, brand communities are the end game.
Five common misnomers about brand communities are:
- Members are not
always top fans or best customers
- Origination is not always created/owned by companies
- Organization is not always open-source, open invite
- Goal Orientation is rarely exclusively company-motivated or member-motivated
- Place of community dialogue is not always structured online
We've identified the 18 steps in getting these sometimes temperamental yet important customer-led initiatives off the ground. Note, some of these are sequential but many are coincident steps. Enjoy.
#1 - The Organizational Audit - ask the 7 key questions whether an organization is ready to pull this off and how it would most benefit
#2 - Big Idea/Cause - address the 7 attributes of a community idea/cause that gets noticed, joined and talked about
#3 - Set the Tone - change your mindset from traditional patriarchal CRM and mass marketing and adopt a co-creative stance
#4 - Build the Plan - build a Focus on audience, types of collaboration, goals, motivation and amount of member exclusivity and control, get the Language right, offer the right incentives, establish rules of engagement and identify the tools and platform and harness the 11Cs of community
#5 - Validation of Program - pre-test the 10 key variable for positive brand community experience
#6 - Online platform - ask the 9 key questions about which platform may be right and also whether you should build it yourself, go open source or host it on somebody else's platform
#7 - Seed & Release -go through the 4 stages of community release and slowly acquire the 6 types of influencers
#8 - Outreach/recruitment - exhaust the 19 tactics/media of a targeted membership drive before any mass media initiative
#9 - Staffing/governance - ask the 5 key questions on how the community will be managed and find a community manager who can excel at the key 6 core brand evangelist responsibilities
#10 - Sell across online and offline channels - address the 5 key areas for expansion and web out to 12 potential types of social media/networks
#11 - Create activity/interactions - address the top 10 success drivers and 18 different forms of additional interaction to avoid ghost town status
#12 – Stimulate Dialogue/Conversation - find a human tone of voice and engage in 27 different types of conversation
#13 – Provide Experiences to Support -deliver one of/a combo of 6 different types of brand experience that leverage the 7 attributes of a great community member experience
#14 - Broadcast/link out to traditional worlds/play up success - make sure people feel like you're a winner
#15 - Feedback to business - measure the 8 different types of feedback and understand which of the top 20 standard community management metrics are right for you
#16 - Reward allocation and announcement - answer the 8 questions about rewards and adopt some of the 6 tangible/monetary rewards and 5 non-monetary types of reward
#17 - Manage retention strategy – discover patterns and leverage, optimize or fix - adopt 17 engagement rules and segment your audience over time based on activity
#18 – Measurement, Insight and Refinement - discipline yourself to a quarterly review on community performance and ensure the value of community is expanded and broadcasted throughout company
For the hardcore who are interested in the particulars of each one of these steps and a listing of 51 brand communities we particularly like, sign up for the Buzz Report at Agent Wildfire and we will send you our upcoming e-newsletter that goes deep on the subject of brand communities and announces some new communities Agent Wildfire will be launching.