Passionate, thriving brand communities don’t happen by accident; they are cultivated.
Brand loyalty goes both ways: Businesses that pay attention to their enthused fans receive that devotion in return.
Engaging with fans and inviting them to engage with others under your banner is not just smart, it’s necessary to the overall health of your business.
But how do you craft community? Read on to discover five timeless tips.
1. Have something compelling to say
Humans are hard-wired to seek answers.
If they can’t find a solution on their own, they look to people who are authorities to provide the answers they seek.
To be an authority on any subject you have to be an answer-bringer, which is just another way of saying that you have to have a message to deliver.
Who are you? What do you stand for? What is it that you can’t tolerate? What do you intend to accomplish?
Know what you represent (or, at the very least, what you don’t) and create a statement around that.
Ideally, sum it up in a couple of clear-cut, concise sentences that focus on your brand community: “I am Jett and I’m a natural-born cheerleader for independent businesses. Here is what I want to help you do.”
Don’t embellish, and don’t be vague. Integrity is more important today than ever.
Put that message front and center on every web property you occupy.
2. Establish intimacy with insider lingo
I was a military brat, which means I had to be adaptable or be miserable. I chose the former.
Something I learned early on was that I had to play to my strengths when being dropped into a new situation. Two of my greatest strengths are that I’m a born communicator and I have a hearty sense of humor. It wasn’t long before I discovered one of the greatest lessons of my life.
Humor is intimacy glue.
If I could make someone laugh — especially in a creative, incisive way — their guard was down and they were receptive to me. Once I recognized that, it blew my mind.
So what habit did I develop? The ability to establish an inside joke with most everyone I encountered.
“But Jett!” you say, “You can’t scale an inside joke.”
Oh yes, you can. The internet is rife with them. They’re called memes, and new ones spring up every day.
Really good memes have, in essence, little micro-communities attached to them.
Drawing people together doesn’t have to be done with humor. It can be done with a specific attitude or practice. Establish your own lingo, endorse a chosen mindset.
Put simply, create an ‘insider’ atmosphere and telegraph it.
3. Want understanding? Be consistent.
This one is pretty simple.
Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you are going to do it. To do anything less is injurious to relationships and community. The fastest way for someone to dismiss you as a huckster is for you to lack follow-through.
When you flake on your people, you are telling them they are not important to you. No one likes to be told that they don’t have value, especially if they’re a fan of what you’re doing.
Publish according to a regular schedule, deliver new information via a predictable email drip, answer inquiries in a timely manner, satisfy orders quickly and with as little inconvenience as possible for your buyer.
If you fail at consistency from time to time, own it and apologize. For the most part, people will be understanding and move on. They get what it is to be human.
If “Consistency” is somewhere on a beach sipping fancy cocktails, “Understanding” will soon pack its towel and flop down on the beach right next to it.
Don’t risk poor word-of-mouth. Deliver consistently and your community will support you.
4. Listen with an intent to improve
Nobody does the exact right thing at all times.
Part of helming a community is listening with care to concerns and suggestions. Not every suggestion will become a best practice and not every concern has value.
Every voice has value, though.
Helpful, friendly voices are a plus. But I encourage you to remain open to the not-so-friendly ones, too.
The squeaky wheels exist, for the most part, to make you better at what you do.
Treat them with respect. Address them head-on with politeness. Work to make improvements where needed based on what is being shared.
Nothing signals to your community that they are valued like your own empathy, humility, and willingness to learn from them.
Make someone feel heard and you’ll make them loyal.
5. Cultivate a spirit of generosity
My husband has a cool, fun little side hustle called Smokin’ Amp Co.
We serve musicians and hobbyists of all skill levels, from high-profile touring bands to the audiophile who spends his weekends configuring a pedal board just to see how crazy the sounds he makes can get.
My husband answers a lot of questions from people who want to modify their equipment and who can’t afford to have him do the work.
It was with them in mind that he started doing a giveaway about once a quarter.
That’s when I noticed something: There are people who, despite not winning, publicly thank him via social media. Not only that, but a segment of the community also engages with the winner, congratulating them.
They also send along news, information, and new customers.
Generosity spurs generosity. And really, can’t the world use a bit more of that?
I for one want to encourage it!
Toward that end, one practice we’ve implemented is rewarding kindness.
From time to time I drop into a Facebook thread to call out the positive people by name and tell them we’re grateful that such enthusiastic and kind people are part of our community. I ask them for mailing info, then send them a sticker pack and a coupon for their next (or first!) order.
Why do I do this?
- First, we’re asserting the kind of community values that we want to see around this brand.
- Second, it makes them happy and it makes us feel good by extension.
And people remember kindness — both with their dollars and their referrals.
Now you go
There you have it, five timeless tips for growing a passionate community around your brand.
What do you think? Are there particular brands out there that are getting this right?
I’m a student of those and would love if you’d point me in their direction. And if you have any practices that you adhere to, I want to hear all about them in the comments.