Why communities matter in marketing – 10 steps to creating an engaged community

In an increasingly noisy marketing landscape, investing in community can be a valuable strategy for many organisations. A successful community strategy can connect you directly with customers and partners on a practical and emotional level. This can lead to improved retention and loyalty, increased referrals and inbound leads, and high-quality market and customer insight.

However, starting a community strategy from scratch is a challenge and it takes time to reap the rewards. Fortunately, there are a few essential ingredients that will give you the best possible chance of success.

  1. Start with a clear ‘why’

Attention is scarce. Help people quickly understand the value of being involved in your group and why it’s worth their time.

A strong purpose will attract more engaged, active members, and encourage focused, high-value discussions.

2. Make sure your senior team has bought in

Successful communities are embedded into organisations. The rewards take time, so your leadership team need to be invested in the long-game. This ensures the community is consistently prioritised and communicates the importance of relationships within your business.

3. Your community manager (or host) is the lynchpin

A good community manager is the most vital ingredient in community success. Beyond the basics (solid writing and organisational skills, an understanding of tech and analytics), they’ll need to demonstrate empathy, resilience, humour, the ability to facilitate discussion, and well-honed reputational antennae!

The most effective hosts usually have expertise in the subject matter of the group and tend to be a senior, recognised person so there’s value in connecting from day one.

4. Prioritise conversations over content

Your content is already available elsewhere.  The value to your community members lies in the unique conversation it inspires or the insights that you draw from content.

Community engagement is powered by curiosity and reciprocity. Don’t use your community simply as a broadcast channel – instead, you need to craft ways to discuss ideas and themes that come from content.

5. People don’t ‘just start chatting’

Opening up a community platform with no guidance is like hiring an empty venue and inviting people to ‘have an event’.

People need signposts to understand what’s expected, the mood of the group, who else is there and why. Communities respond well to structure and focus, which will help them build their own momentum.

6. Start with one group

Numbers aren’t everything, but momentum is harder when the group is very small and managing multiple highly specialised groups is time consuming. Start with a community that has broad appeal to bring people together, then specialise later in response to how your community develops.

7. Quality begets quality

If your community is quiet, it’s easy to panic post to encourage a reaction.

But random, frequent posts are overwhelming, and if they appear irrelevant or purposeless your members will soon switch off.

Hold your course. Consistency is preferable to frequency and thoughtful, relevant content will encourage thoughtful, relevant thinking amongst your members.

8. Connection is vital

Communities thrive where there are strong individual connections. 1-2-1 communications, virtual and real-world events and socialising opportunities give members different ways to interact and strengthen bonds away from formal online discussions.

9. Don’t get hung up on ‘engagement’

Community is all about delivering value, not growth and visibility. Many members read but don’t contribute, or only visit when they have a question or need a recommendation. They’re still deriving significant value from your community.

10. Community is rewarding, but hard

Successful communities take time to develop. You’ll need resilience, creativity and tenacity to drive success. But as you create opportunities for you members to share knowledge, solve problems and build connections, the rewards will make your effort worthwhile.

Source: Guild, one of Bubble Agency’s trusted community platform partners.

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