When brands encourage target market members/customers to come together in a community setting and market their brands, they are engaging in community marketing. Leveraging the social media and other digital forums, businesses can use this strategy to both reward existing customers for their loyalty and drive organic, customer-driven marketing activities.
Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn serve as powerhouses for community marketing. When brands make efforts to respond to consumers in natural and unscripted ways, it encourages customers to gather in the same space online and interact. Community marketing strategies may not directly convert customers, but they support brand awareness and loyalty goals.
As an example, Taco Bell created interaction-friendly Twitter campaigns followers willing to interact with the brand and share their experiences. The brand enjoys a massive following of 1.78 million followers and 28,700 likes. Taco Bell retweets customer experiences that commonly earn thousands of likes and shares over the course of a few days. The business has created a mutually beneficial community where customers can learn more about brand offerings and the brand benefits from natural customer marketing.
Intel uses Facebook as their marketing community where they discuss the Intel brand, family of products, initiatives, services and breaking news. They also post information about their current job openings and to help promote their events. The community has been hugely successful with over 26 million likes and followers.
Michael Crosson, a new age Social Entrepreneur owns the largest and most active social media marketing group on LinkedIn with over 1.4 million members as of October 2016, including 20 subgroups for special interests, such as Social Media Marketing &Nonprofits, Social Media & Politics, etc. It is intended for interactive advertising and marketing professionals who are actively engaged in social media and community-oriented websites around the world. It is highly moderated by 48 professionals to keep this forum SPAM-free, focused and productive.
In community marketing, authenticity and consistent engagement are key. People do not interact with brands that remain silent when confronted with a less than pleasing Yelp review or a glowing social media review. Businesses can take two different approaches to the community foundation and management. They can uncover organic communities of customers and interact with them in those spaces, or sponsor a community and encourage customers to join.
To maintain efficacy as a marketing strategy, businesses must participate in communities wherever they appear. In addition to top social media platforms, communities may also exist on social news aggregation sites such as Reddit, review sites such as TripAdvisor, and on brand-sponsored forums. In a socially-driven world, community marketing serves as an organic and potentially self-sufficient marketing strategy.
There is some debate within the marketing community on whether it’s a good practice to build your online community on a social media platform like LinkedIn, Facebook or any other commonly used social media platform because ultimately you don’t control that environment. You could potentially open yourself up to problems if that environment decides to change the rules or user experience impacting your community not to mention access to your member data. For those reasons, some marketing professionals are using marketing technologies that allow you to create your own online communities giving you more control over the user experience while limiting access to your community data.
IMA has listed several social media management and community management applications on Martec Showcase