What is the true value of your Brand Community?

Even the Harvard Business Review, the most prestigious management magazine in the world, focuses on the topic of Brand Communities, their value and why they are increasingly central to a digital and business strategy.

Our customers often ask us:

  • But what is a Brand Community?
  • What are the real benefits of creating one and developing it?

We generally confuse a Brand Community with an open profile on social networks. We also often confuse a Brand Community with a "Fan Community".
But what really is a Brand Community?

What are Brand Communities.

Brand Community is a group of people involved in a brand's activities, products and services, beyond what is sold to them.  They are people who want to feel an active part of a brand.

For this reason, a brand community is characterized by:

  • bringing people together with a common interest/passion;
  • foster relationships between users;
  • stimulate sharing and participation among members.

In a Brand Community the relationship between brand and customer is a win-win relationship:

  • the brand provides useful and stimulating content for the user;
  • the sense of belonging is strengthened;
  • the brand image is strengthened;
  • marketing and advertising investments are smaller and more effective;
  • there is a contribution of new ideas that satisfies and enriches both parties;
  • a better relationship is created between user and brand where the brand gives voice to comments and criticisms, seizing the opportunity to improve and better satisfy the customer.

Various market research has shown that a brand that creates and involves its own community brings various advantages to its business, such as:

  1. improving engagement;
  2. strengthening brand awareness;
  3. increasing loyalty and reducing churn;
  4. obtaining valuable feedback on products, services and activities;
  5. stimulate innovation through market research.

Not only. 

A central theme in brand community strategies is the role of Zero-Party Data, that is, the possibility of collecting and then using those “data that a user intentionally and proactively shares with a brand”, for example:

  • explicit data: posts, comments, likes, connections, follows, polls etc;
  • implicit data: interests, social rank, membership of a specific cluster, etc;
  • data relating to the continuity of user experience.

Important data not only because it fuels so-called permission marketing but also because it allows brands to contextualize and personalize their marketing strategies, improving the effectiveness of efforts to personalize customer/user experiences.
Valuable and increasingly fundamental data in a context in which the use of third-party data/cookies will be increasingly limited (cookieless world).

The value of a Brand Community in terms of opportunity cost.

Richard Millington, founder of Feverbee an important community consultancy company, has realized that many companies struggle to understand the effectiveness of the return on investment of a Brand Community.
His recent article published in the magazine of Harvard Business Review, analyses, through two experiments, how it is possible to understand the true value of a brand community. 
In a first experiment, Millington proposed to one of his client companies to "black out" its community site for a period of 4 months. 

During the community closure period: 

  • customer support was overwhelmed with customer questions that would otherwise have been handled by the community;
  • Brand engagement and customer satisfaction have plummeted to one of the lowest levels ever recorded.

Most brand communities today are hosted on a proprietary online platform where members ask questions and share advice with each other, such as:
  • in the Sephora community, customers can help each other find the best beauty products; 
  • in the Atlassian community, developers can ask questions and get help setting up and using products;
  • In the Apple community you can ask questions and get help repairing Apple products.

Millington then conducted another experiment to strengthen the thesis of the value that a Community has for a company or brand.

He proposed that one of his client companies remove community content from the search engine view, so that this audience would have to go elsewhere for answers. 

This is because the vast majority of brand community visitors discover the service through search engines. 

It is the long tail effect that brand communities are able to best exploit and it works because very few problems are unique; many customers have already asked before and gotten an answer.

The test led to these results:

  •  the number of visitors to the community plummeted by an average of 83%. While some found the community through other channels (the website for example), most simply filled out support tickets or called customer support; 
  • the number of tickets (calls/online ticket form) to other support channels increased by 58%. The increase in ticket volume overwhelmed the customer support team and led to a sudden drop in the average speed of response to customer requests by 35%; 
  • in turn, this resulted in customer satisfaction scores dropping from 4.3 (out of 5) to 3.8.

This clearly highlights how the majority of community users prefer the community itself as their main support and interaction channel.


“Becoming a ‘Community-First’ Business”

There are several operational strategies that brands can implement to give value and better integrate their Brand Community into their business strategy, including:
  • give visibility to the community in the main user touchpoints with the brand and in the main entry points, for example on the home page of the site;
  • integrate it into the structural menus and main navigation paths;
  • implement a unified registration and access system;
  • have a unified editorial and marketing strategy.
But the most important thing as Millington says is “simply to build the foundations for a thriving and fully supported Community“.

Platform like SelfCommunity enables brands to build valuable relationships with their users, customers, collaborators, fans and associates.

Discover SelfCommunity and how to improve engagement, reinforce brand awareness and increase loyalty with an unique and fully customizable Social Network platform.

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