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How you become a community-led brand, and why it matters.

How you become a community-led brand, and why it matters.Photo from Unsplash

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In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, understanding and leveraging belief systems is crucial for brands aiming to stand out.
Categories are great for defining a market for shoppers. However there is one big piece of the puzzle missing, which, with 70% of digital natives making up the UK population, is crucial. But many brands are not taking advantage of this opportunity. It can be summed up in one word: COMMUNITY.
So, what is a community? Previously, it described a group of people who live near each other and look after each other’s interests.
In today’s world, a community is a shared belief system by people who live anywhere but come together in one place: on social media!
How much does tapping into relevant social media communities really affect a brand’s success, and does it even matter if you understand modern communities? 
Innovative brands like Patagonia, Gymshark, and even Polaroid (making its comeback) are all community-led brands. They not only talk about the features and benefits of their products but know who their community is and how to interact with them to share their belief system.
How do you make yourself stand out from the crowd (or category) by becoming a community-led brand? 5 easy steps…

1. Discover Your Community


Ask yourself: what does your product stand for? 


When answering this question, don’t use macro trends that the industry is talking about. For example, being natural or eco-friendly. These are ‘contributors’ – yes, they need to be included in your strategy, but there’s too much noise around them to give you a niche point of view that a possible community would align their beliefs with.
You also need to make sure your brand’s key belief system is something based on the thought process of coming up with the product or brand in the first place.
If it’s not authentic, people will see right through it. You need to believe in it as well.
Then you need to find where your community are hanging out., “Go where they play,” and then do your research.
  • Who is talking?


  • What are they talking about?


  • What sort of reaction is that having within the community?


  • How many people are contributing their opinions?


One method is to use AI-driven social listening insights to speed up the process and find your community quicker. When you’ve uncovered their key values and hot topics, you need to consider how to appeal to that community as a brand.
What’s your community persona?
In market speak, personas are a useful set of assumptions that help build a picture of your target consumer. Just like personas, you can bring your community to life and give them a personality to understand how to target your marketing to big groups of people who share the same beliefs that align with your brand values.


2. Talk Their Language


Each community has its own language, and this doesn’t just mean tone of voice.
Sentiments must match your community. It’s fine to have your own opinion and be a thought leader, but your contribution must elevate the belief system, not belittle it.
Brands don’t always understand the language of the communities they are trying to infiltrate and get surprised when they receive a very negative response. That negative sentiment carries like a virus throughout the community, and then the community is against the brand, not for it – all your hard work goes down the drain.
Talking your community’s language should be holistic and not just left to the Social Media Manager. Even though your target community can be reached altogether online, they do get out into the real world (occasionally).
You can even do the amazing job of recruiting to the online community by attracting people with this belief system even when they are out and about shopping in stores. Consider how this language could be used on POS, as well as on social media posts.
The best way to find out a community’s language is to look at that universal tool of belonging – the mighty hashtag! 
The reason hashtags work so well for reach is because they are relatable. When a hashtag is added to a post, or a comment is added to a post with the same hashtag, they are saying, “I believe in this!” Consider some very well-known hashtags like #socialgood, #doggymumma, or #meatlessmondays.
Now think about how they represent their own communities – the very people you would love as customers for your brand.
At Sweet Spot, we monitor millions of conversations online to understand the communities and how they speak based on grouping relevant hashtags. It can really make or break your brand strategy knowing this key information.


3. Borrow the Community


Ok, I know this one is a bit strange, how exactly do you ‘borrow’ a community?
Once you’re in and you have gone through your initiation and come out the other side as “one of us”, you can start to borrow communities to help with building the success of your product.
They are your greatest advocates! 
They are the best people to ‘start a spark.’ Now, I’m not saying ‘go viral’ here as that requires, among other things, hard work and luck, but starting a spark can be the beginning of something big.


The community you have been talking to online and offline are primed and ready to get your message to their nearest and dearest. With the reward of getting them to understand their beliefs, they become recruiters for the community and, as such, recruiters for your brand, which is now either ingrained in or represents that community – what a great way to grow!.
Social proof is readily available, and customers can see very clearly where your brand belongs and who you are targeting.

4. Show Loyalty to the Community


Are you guilty of changing direction based on the say-so of a buyer, or expert, or even advice from friends and family? It happens. However people, unfortunately, are not very forgiving.
I have seen many brands find their community, become one of them based on a shared belief system, only for them to become their aggressors seemingly overnight.
These brands changed direction and didn’t consider their key supporters, guilty of changing their core beliefs based on the latest industry report or shopper need.
At Sweet Spot, we are very careful not to go generic with possible trends or opportunities in categories.
Focus is key!
Your long-term success is based on having integrity and not moving the way the wind blows. I know this is easier said than done, but this is where ‘focus’ is key. If you know where to focus and on what, you won’t change the brand, and your community will keep loving the content you offer to them to reinforce their belief system.
Don’t be afraid of advertising the community. If you recruit potential customers to your chosen online community, you will get a lot more positive sentiment from your strongest supporters. Take the example of Dove using #WorldMentalHealthDay- a targeted message for a targeted hashtag community that aligns with their brand values of inclusivity.
Brand-led hashtags are fine for competitions, but save yourself the hard work and align with a hashtag community that already exists – the community you have been trying so hard to be a part of.
The ultimate goal is that your community’s chosen hashtag becomes much more – it becomes a movement spearheaded by your brand. There’s no better PR or WOM than that!

5. Reward Your Community


They love you, and you love them. Don’t forget to show this every now and then. Appeal to them as people and consider how much they would actually like to be involved in your journey.
Competitions are great for reach, but these are potential customers. If you reward them by including their opinions in the growth of your business and make them feel like a part of something, that’s the type of loyalty money can’t buy.
The people that are part of your movement should be given the recognition for any actions they make to boost your message (and your business).
If you are hoping for endless positive sentiment with no rewards given out, it doesn’t happen.
So what other types of rewards can you give out, other than recognition and monetary incentives?
What about interactive product demo sessions, sending them samples through the post, or maybe digital signage, group-based charitable initiatives that align with the belief system of your brand can lead to them making an impact on behalf of your brand. or avatars to show they are part of your movement?
Think about how fanatic sports fans are, what do they do to show it? 
If you can get this level of loyalty from your community, they would be proud to wear your colours.

So next time, consider COMMUNITY and how it can make you stand out amongst your well-financed competitors.

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