What do you do prior to making a purchase?
Personally, I ask my friends for their opinions on the particular product, read customer reviews, and sometimes even browse through a brand’s tagged mentions on social media to get a better idea of what other shoppers think.
And I am not alone in this. Recent studies show that:
- 83% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products and services
- 70% of people trust consumer reviews online
- 58% of consumers share their positive experiences with a company on social media, and ask family, colleagues, and friends for their opinions about brands
Consumers lean on the opinions and personal experiences of others to make their own purchasing decisions because they’re relatable compared to overly produced advertisements. Validation from like-minded individuals is what makes consumers trust that a specific product or brand is worth investing in.
The good news is that most brands already have a powerful tool they can leverage to provide this type of social proof that consumers crave — their community of brand enthusiasts. Going forward, in order to truly resonate with their audience, marketers must pass the mic to their community to tell an authentic story and co-create a well-rounded brand narrative.
In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how to identify your brand community members. Now, we’re giving you tips and examples for engaging them in order to grow your business and spread advocacy. Below, we’ve provided some tips for activating your community, backed by real-life examples of brands that are doing it well. Let’s get started.
Build programs tailored to each of your community members.
Once you’ve identified your community members, it’s time to activate them. Since each of your community members provide value in different ways, your activations must be customized to how each member aligns with your community goals.
There are countless ways to engage your community, but here are some of the most effective methods that industry-leading brands have used to climb to the top.
Every marketer knows that brands today cannot survive without a robust social media content strategy. But as the social landscape gets increasingly saturated, the key to standing out and capturing consumers’ attention is community-generated content. Real people sharing real stories is more believable than polished corporate messages coming from a brand. So, rely on your community, share their content on social media, and amplify their stories around your brand.
One way to do so is by working with social media influencers who align well with your brand. Influencer-generated content is not only cost-effective, diverse, and high-performing, it’s also made for social media and blends in well with the rest of consumers’ feeds. In addition, since influencers already have their own close-knit online community, working with them will get your branded content in front of a larger audience and increase awareness at a massive level.
Another effective way to source authentic content is to repurpose user-generated content created by your loyal customers. Browse through your tagged photos and mentions to see what your customers are saying about your products and share their content on your own channels, even just through a simple Retweet. That way, people can see your products being used in action, understand what your brand stands for, and witness how your brand can change their lives for the better.
Taco Bell constantly shares community-generated content via its Instagram and Twitter. In both examples below, Taco Bell shares its community’s emotional stories tied to the brand, showcasing that Taco Bell is more than just another fast food chain to many consumers — it’s part of the big moments in their lives.
Brand ambassador program
What would you do if your favorite company offered you the coveted title of “brand ambassador” in exchange for your advocacy? You would probably jump at the opportunity in a heartbeat.
Turning your most passionate fans into brand ambassadors is a great way to reward them for their continued support, while boosting brand loyalty and spreading word-of-mouth in an organic way. Brands could recruit anyone from celebrities to “regular” people to become ambassadors. What matters most is working with those who use your product on the daily and truly embody your brand in their everyday lifestyle.
Many brands choose to partner up with influencers, industry experts, and passionate customers when it comes to brand ambassador programs — but the sky's the limit! Who you work with should depend on what your community goals are. If it’s to reach a specific audience, work with niche influencers. If it’s to increase brand awareness on a greater scale, work with celebrities. If it’s to educate consumers, work with industry professionals. The list goes on.
For Lululemon, its world-class brand ambassador program is powered by local fitness instructors and elite athletes. Each ambassador lives a very active lifestyle, making it easy for them to incorporate the high-end activewear brand into their lives. In addition, because the ambassadors are experts in the fitness world, they have the credibility to educate their audiences on the products they promote. Lululemon ambassadors also lead fitness classes for its wider community, provide their honest feedback prior to a new product launch, and act as a true extension of the brand. These long-term partnerships have massively contributed to Lululemon’s success, showcasing the importance its ambassadors play in the brand community.
Customer referral & affiliate programs
Of course every passionate customer would be happy to receive exclusive benefits from their favorite brand, such as early access to new products or an invitation to a private launch party. But what’s even better is the opportunity for customers to become true brand partners by giving them referral links or affiliate codes.
Customers do more than just purchase. Today, customer LTV is measured by the sum of a customer’s expected spend, plus the influence they have on others to also make purchases. Turning customers into brand partners through referral and affiliate programs will encourage them to continue promoting your brand to their friends and get rewarded for those they refer. In fact, more than 50% of consumers said they are likely to give a referral if offered a direct incentive, social recognition, or access to an exclusive loyalty program.
Popular fashion brand Missguided does this extremely well. The brand is confident that its loyal fanbase will promote the brand to their friends. So, the brand has a customer referral program where customers can refer their closest friends to get 30% off and enjoy the same discount. In addition, Missguided has an affiliate program that allows members of its community to apply to join, no matter their follower count. Affiliates earn a 6% commission per sale generated and get exclusive partnership opportunities with the brand!
What better way to create products for your community than to literally co-create products with them? Building products with your community members not only shows that your brand values their feedback, but also gives them the unique opportunity to contribute more to the company.
If you’ve had an ongoing relationship with an influencer who has long been a brand fan and aligns well with your company, consider collaborating on a capsule collection with them.
Tarte Cosmetics has mastered the art of taking influencer collaborations to the next level. So far, the brand has joined forces with popular beauty and lifestyle YouTubers, including Adelaine Morin, Lele Pons, and Whitney Simmons, to launch makeup palettes tailored to each of their personal brands and audiences. This not only widens the brand’s audience, but also builds closer relationships with its influencer partners.
This activation doesn’t just work with your community of influencers. You can also work with professionals who have expertise in your industry to build more trust and credibility with your target audience.
For example, leading sports nutrition company Nutrabolt worked with professional athlete Mat Fraser to co-create a supplement called Fraserade XTEND Elite. The brand gave Mat the freedom to pick out the formula, the flavor, and even the name. Due to Mat’s fitness expertise and, of course, his authentic love of the brand, the partnership led to the highest-grossing sales day on officialXTEND.com.
Activate your brand community
Activating your community is all about allowing members to mold your brand with you. Make your community feel like their voices are being heart, and show them that you value them beyond just purchases. From brand ambassador programs to content collaborations, co-create your brand story with your community through these activations.
Up next, we’re talking about how to measure your community success and what metrics matter most. Check out Part 3 here.