It’s a hot topic, and marketers are quite literally only scratching the surface
What does the word “community” mean to marketers?
For many, communities are online – the groups that form around a brand’s social media channels, or perhaps those who are passionate about certain topics on forums such as Reddit.
For others, it’s the art of referrals. Or gifting. Or the customers who sit in their CRM.
According to Forbes, the definition of community, as it applies to marketing and business, is “customers aligned with the company, its brand promise and what it stands for”.
WHY COMMUNITY IS THE LAST GREAT MARKETING STRATEGY
Belonging to the Brand is the latest book from bestselling author and marketing expert Mark Schaefer. The subtitle? “Why community is the last great marketing strategy.”
Schaefer writes in his introduction, “Helping a person belong to something represents the ultimate marketing achievement. If a customer opts into an engaging, supportive and relevant brand community, we no longer need to lure them into our orbit with ads and SEO, right? What we used to consider marketing is essentially over.”
A quick Google search reveals that the best way to create a meaningful community is through brand-curated digital platforms like Lego Ideas, encouraging UGC across social media or leveraging loyalty programmes.
And what do all of these have in common? They’re all online.
NEWSFLASH: COMMUNITIES ARE MORE THAN ONLINE
These strategies have something else in common. They’re bringing together groups of people who are willing to evangelise the brand, usually in the form of positive reviews and referrals.
But the truth is, in behavioural science terms, the most powerful advocacy happens offline.
According to Nielsen, 92% of us are influenced by recommendations from people we know and trust in the real world, over all other types of advertising. This is because as humans, we’re herd animals and we’re inherently lazy – we rely on others to do the research for us, and then we copy.
Digital communities and influencers are effective advocates, but they are one step removed, and that step is trust. We are much more likely to trust – and therefore follow – someone who we really know.
Imagine, then, if marketers were to apply community marketing techniques to the communities that truly are the most influential – those that exist in the real world.