How To Build A Community Around Your Brand – MKTG Showcase / 27th April 2022
Want to leverage your network for better brand engagement? Recently Consume Comms was up in Glasgow for a MKTG Showcase session looking at how to create a community around our brand for more effective commercial engagement and to generate broader awareness of your product and services.
Using at live examples like our experience with the Glug Leeds community case study: Growth to a 500+ membership from a standing start back in 2013, the talk offered a breakdown of key factors required for meaningful networking and referrals.
Watch on YouTube or read the transcript below!
So when thinking about running a business, obviously there’s a commercial objective; to sell something. But it’s important to find the right people to sell it to. They should be engaged and this creates a legacy; not a flash-in-a-pan business – something where people are engaged with your brand: they tell people and then refer it on.
For example: Harley Davidson – surely everyone’s heard of Harley Davidson. Their business was not doing so well back in the 80s, but yet today they are still around, and that’s because at that point in their business they decided to place a bit of emphasis around community and create a group of people that were aligned with their values and interests. In short, everyone knows Harley Davidson even if they’re not into motorcycles
Consume Comms looks at creating authentic communication – and what does that mean? It means creating content that people are interested in and whether they engage with it. Everything from social media to real-life interactions, through to running events. Everything around authentic engagements with grassroots activity – grassroots activity is that moment of meeting someone and engaging with them.
These are the kinds of things Consume Comms does. It’s a typical marketing agency, but how does it do things a little bit differently? Well, simply put Consume Comms does authentic marketing, in terms of taking time to understand what people do, what that business is about, having conversations, and understanding the interests of people that are engaging with it.
So it’s not sector specific, it’s really more about taking time when meeting someone. So when at an event, all of those businesses are an opportunity. It might not be someone to directly sell to, but they’ll appreciate five minutes of engagement and then they’ll refer your business to somebody else or they buy from you – so make sure to take an interest in people, especially this side of the pandemic. They’ll like you and they’ll tell other people: ‘I met that person at that event and I remember this from their business.’
There are many case studies. For example, Glug Yorkshire was a community, a networking community. It was global so they had 35 chapters around the world, and they specialised in creative meetups. It was called Glug because it was an after work networking gig where people would meet and you’d have a couple of speakers. Every month, 150 people. It was the longest running chapter globally. It’s kind of changed now, people don’t really want to do that so much, but the premise of why that went on is people. The benefit of working as a community is it had consistency, it was something that happened every month, it was something that had a theme, it had some value. Then on the other side of that, it always had the informality. Going there and chatting to people consistently, every month – miss it one month and go the month after.
A brand is a point of contact. Communicate beyond centralised communication points. Glug was a point that people knew, if they moved to a new city. People moving from London or from New Zealand could drop a message saying ‘I’m moving to the city and I need to network with someone. I don’t really know where to go.” They can come along. It became a centralised point for that community.
There’s also a difference between having physical meetups and also making sure that you have an online presence as well. So even though Glug wasn’t able to conduct those after work boozy events in the last few years, that community still continued online. There was still a very impactful pipeline of things that happened every month with a theme.
What else can a business owner do to raise their profile? – Consume Comms’ Hannah started a podcast that is unfortunately named ‘Sounds from the Underground’. It’s not a girls aloud tribute – it offers people an authentic view of running a business. (It is a little bit sweary and uncut.) It’s just three people that run a business, talking very honestly about running a business. That’s one of the things that is really important about creating a business community is talking to people honestly. It’s having that connection.
Another way to raise a business’ profile is running lot of events. People have to have a good time but it also has to have an objective, so collaborators should come in with a very strong purpose. It’s possible to mix it up between having these professional events but also make sure there is a little bit of personality; people can get together and have those little conversations they’ve worked for. There are some showreels on Consume Comms’ YouTube that are more professional but for a laugh, probably go for the podcast because it’s a little sweary and fun.
So those are a couple of examples. This is how to create a community that lasts for years and expands globally. Create a brand culture people can engage with, because people talk about tribes a lot, which is a bit of a buzzword now. What does it actually mean? So, it means finding the people that care about the same things. When running a business, it’s necessary to consider what people care about, in order to create a business that has legacy and that is going to create a good referral network and have people that are interested in the business and the product and the service.
Don’t use obviously overly salesy jargon. The best way to do business is: don’t talk about the business, talk about what that person is doing in order to tailor the product or service to what they need. Less noise, more listening. Listening is a big part of building the community – listening to what people want from that community, being part of those conversations. It’s not necessary to be a natural networker. Some people hate going to networking events, having to see a lot of people and so look for these sort of things when going out – micro interactions that build into bigger conversations. That’s what it comes down to – is the brand approachable? Are the credit cards personal? How someone looks at you and sees that you’re going to be the kind of person they want to do business with. Are they approachable? Dedicating those times to microinteractions is very important. Don’t just pass on by. It’s the little things. It’s the human element. That little bit of chat can lead to bigger things.
Then there’s actually going back to basics and thinking about the business. So, what’s the actual culture of the business? And that’s not as big a question as it seems. Brand persona is really about what values you have, and that could be as simple as doing a good job, impressing people, delivering something that people will go and tell the rest of their network about. But to create a good community, choose three or four solid values that to stick to rigidly. For example, Consume Comms is independent – no sponsorship, so anyone that came would be able to feel comfortable. They’re not getting sold to, just network and enjoy that event. So as a business, think about what it is about the business that is attractive. What is it that people should know and like about it? Turn thet business into a person which is the whole business persona of it. What should the community to think about the business?
Make to be active in the community, doing different things and acting on the business’ values. That’s the first bit of starting a community – identifying those values. Three or four, doesn’t need to be massively altruistic or anything, but just have some solid values that are going to run through the business that apply to everything, to go back to and it’s the kind of the secret source of what makes this business what it is. Sometimes, those brand values are basically the owner’s values. That’s always a good place to start. What are other people like in the business? It’s also important for recruitment, so what are the kind of things that suit the company in a person that’s going to work for you? What are the kind of things you’re going to want in a client?
There are three ways to do this. It all begins with research. Understand the area, understand the business, understand what other businesses like in the area, or sector. Consistency, so going back – consistency through the brand values so making sure if it’s a sustainable business, make sure that to stick with that. If you have a business that’s all about stability, you have to consider that through everything, from packaging, to whatever else. Be consistent in how things are delivered, be consistent in communicating the brand, but also be consistent in how you do things.
So from an event perspective, at the end of every event, always say what the next event is going to be, so people know what’s coming up next. Being vocal also falls into consistency. Use the people in the network, digital, all sorts. The best thing, in terms of research, is finding pockets of people; finding people that are useful in the area. People who are useful for helping you understand what’s the next big thing that’s coming. Finding those people that are going to be useful to help further this business, and all for part of the wider community.
Online content – writing on social media should really reflect the brand values and the business; understanding what it is, how other people talk, and then targeting the right person, and consistently putting that out. Having visibility is great but what’s the point without targeting the right people? So, do the research, consistently be available in their spaces whether it be on social media or at events. Building those target audiences is around finding those groups of people that are useful. Use them to leverage that network.
Consume Comms uses Twitter lists. Find one person that is the ideal target person, be it a client or a president or workforce or a business to work with. Follow them on Twitter, and add them to a list, that list then forms a nice feed of the top conversations and their top topics, so it’s a really good way of very quickly finding out what a target audience is talking about, and also where they are, how to get in touch with them, other people that are useful. Depending on the community, it’s always better to start by accessing an existing community than trying to set one up. Lists are a really good research tool for business and for setting a tone for seeing how people speak.
Keep some ongoing flow, and something that other people can contribute to as well, don’t just shout into the void or an echo chamber. What are the hot topics? Why are people interested? Create some dialogue. That’s where the value is. So, it does involve a bit of legwork to understand what’s going on, and what are people interested in, and the brand being the centralized point of communication, but also has some practical elements. Perhaps set up a Facebook group. It’s still there, people still do facebook groups, linkedin groups, but commit to it. Pick one thing. If it’s too much, pick one platform where people go. Make it accessible – not everybody wants to go to events.
It’s impossible to maintain have a community without conversation. The conversation bit is the hardest bit, that is where the legwork is involved, keeping abreast of what people want, and what to talk about; what’s happening in the industry, it’s very fortunate we have the internet now. There’s a lot of ways to have these conversations, and without creating the network. This is the reason to create a community; get people involved and get people engaged, let them leave the conversations, let them talk about what is happening and what’s of interest… just facilitate it and that’s the best way to keep the community going, and as this is all tied in with what with the business is as a centralised communication point, because the centralised community point this is but this commercial benefit is that it all comes back to the business – leading a network of people that’s useful, and that’s how it all comes back. Not selling a thing, but creating visibility for the business in a positive way, that makes it interesting for other people to come back to.
In terms of visibility, there’s a lot of different ways to do this. Different social media channels and newsletters or a podcast. There’s different options, different ways of maintaining that community. Physical events, vlogs, there’s all sorts of things you can do now. But it must be maintained. Best way to do that is an old-fashioned writing and marketing calendar from January to December. Draft what are you going to do, where to go to find these people, what events are on, what activity is going on, and then overlaying that with the business objectives of how changing those things you’re doing along the way. Yes, social media is a good way to do it, but it doesn’t all have to be on social media. We don’t want to just keep scrolling through and seeing loads of sales content, a little bit of humour, a bit of personality, a little bit of human.
Dedicate time to running these communities. Dedicate some time to keeping it going, to talk to people, to take your time, and get out and meet more people. Building that network of supporters is really important, so even if there is a community and they’re all really involved and they love what the business, continue to build that network of supporters, so that there is no competition. Everybody has their own nuances so it’s always so good to go out and experience other people’s events, other people’s businesses, and collaborate. Collaborating is a really good way of building a community, even if it is another marketing business, they will be slightly different how they do things.
The breakdown is, it’s very much about people being authentic, it’s finding a way to speak to people in a way that’s interesting to them, and have a bit of faith in the business, the product, or service. Have a conversational tone. Engage with real people, because people remember people. Sometimes it’s a little bit difficult – not everyone’s a people person, but there’s different ways of maintaining that integration. Especially now, on the internet. Make sure that it’s consistent and all of this great community activity that has to be backed up with the commercial, so create those meetings afterwards. Remember what the values are, what the business does, and give it personality. That’s the glue that sticks everything together.
Consume Comms works with communities for visibility and because their values stick match, so if anybody’s interested – BESEA.N, the British East and Southeast Asian network, do a lot of events around the country. Don’t go networking five days a week, be strategic. Plan out a marketing calendar of 12 months and how that sits with the business’ objectives. For Consume Comms, this is engaging more with the eastern market and to talk about heritage and roots, and that’s why our collaborators now work in that way.