Brand communities are communities among customers based on a common bond with a brand. It can be a company, an individual, or an idea. Customers gradually become fans. But the strategy of community building is still quite new, which is why many myths have formed around it.
Myth 1: Community building is a marketing strategy
Brand communities are often mistakenly relegated to the marketing department, when managers should rather think of them as a business strategy. Community management needs to think all-encompassing and aligned with the entire business. Sufficient time should be invested in this concept.
Harley Davidson provides the best example. After reorganizing the company in the eighties, the company built its entire business model around the brand community. Employees became bikers and bikers became employees. This allowed the company to strengthen cohesion and build a new kind of customer loyalty. Here is the example of the Harley Owners Group.
Myth 2: A brand community primarily serves the company
Community building serves customers, and they are nothing but people. They have needs and interests. Transactions such as purchases or registrations do not create loyalty – understanding and representation of interests, on the other hand, do. Such a community can offer a customer many things. Mental support and learning new skills are just two of the many possibilities.
Emotional needs are more important to people than a brand, which is why they should be served first. It is often a difficult task for managers to see the brand, and thus the company, only in second place. Nevertheless, putting customers first through community building is a strategy that makes sense in the long term.
Myth 3: Community building follows the brand
Brand communities only become strong through their customers and need to be structured. The three most important types of structure are pools, webs, and hubs. In a pool, an emotional bond is created through shared values and goals.
For a web, the individuals and their stories are particularly important. Connections are built between them, as in social networks, for example.
In hubs, people are brought together by their common love for a single person. This can be artists or a fictional character like Hannah Montana, for example.
Myth 4: Brand communities are only built on shared love
Conflict can also make a group strong. Unfortunately, it is in our nature to avoid disagreements. However, in community building, it can be useful to highlight them instead. This can create a closer bond and remind customers why they stick together. Over time, this community building can even result in its own competitive advantage.
Perpetual enmities, such as between Pepsi and Coca Cola, fuel conversations and keep the community around the brand engaged. This strengthens group cohesion because consumers realize that they have a common opinion. Jointly organized community actions can increase engagement between members.
Myth 5: Rely on the leader instead of the community itself for community building.
Opinionated leaders are important. Yet brand communities are strongest when every member of the community plays a role. Studies have shown that in brand communities, different social roles exist in which different tasks are performed.
These can be about disseminating information, cheering on the competition or developing the brand. There are supporters, mentors, disciples and brand ambassadors. Robust community engagement relies on finding gaps in the system and filling them with the appropriate roles.
In addition, community building is teamwork that should involve other business units in addition to the marketing department. In particular, the community should be asked for feedback in order to actively involve them in development.
Myth 6: The Internet is the best strategy for community building
Using the power of the Internet is one way, but not an entire business strategy. Social networks are, of course, very good for spreading information, getting new feedback and ideas, and creating connections.
For marketing, this is very important, but the Internet also has weaknesses. These include anti-social behavior on the net and the weakness of emotional ties. It has become clear in practice that the best communities can be created in physical places.
Thus, brand communities need not be built exclusively online. It is precisely through offline interaction with customers that even stronger customer loyalty can be generated.