Did you know that Hootsuite grew from 0 to 3 million users without spending a dime on advertising or Public Relations for the first 3 years of its existence? That sounds incredible right?

Ryan Holmes, the CEO of Hootsuite credited the company’s success to its community outreach programs. The company basically allowed its users do all the work and bring in more users for the company.

Imagine if your customers could do the same for your business.

Businesses today are looking for ways to not just acquire customers, but to turn those customers into passionate and enthusiastic brand advocates that influence their peers to their favour and contribute to their product development.

To create such value from your customers, your business or product should match any of the following

  1. Your product is perceived as a problem solver. It automatically helps your customers get their job done or achieve a desired result.
  2. Your business or product connects with your customers emotionally. E.g. Apple and Coca Cola
  3. Your business or product helps your customers build their social capital.

Helping your customers build their social capital is the key to building brand communities.

According to Sarah Lee and Susan Fournier, in their Harvard Business Review article ‘‘Brand-community members buy more, remain loyal, and reduce marketing costs through grassroots evangelism.’’

Harley-Davidson Inc an American motorcycle manufacturer, saved itself from near extinction in the 1980s and went on to build a brand valued at $7.8 billion dollars 25 years later by building a ‘brotherhood’’ of riders.

In2013, Beyoncé broke all the rules of marketing and changed the music industry by releasing her self-titled album directly to her fans. The album became the fastest selling album in iTunes history after 828,773 copies was sold worldwide in its first 3 days of availability. Beyoncé’s community of fans, popularly known as the BeyHive, made this feat possible for the singer.

As an event marketer, you can build a community around your event and still enjoy the benefits that come along with a brand community.

I was recently asked to help an international IT firm build a community of technology entrepreneurs for its Lagos branch

Here’s how I intend to do it.

Understand the Business Objective

‘’For a brand community to yield maximum benefit, it must be framed as a high-level strategy supporting business wide goals’’ says Sarah Lee and Susan Fournier.

So first of all, I’m going to look at the company’s business objective. For this company in particular, it is set to help entrepreneurs grow by organizing events that is designed to educate, inspire and connect entrepreneurs.

The company already has community-building at its heart of its business objectives, so this is going to be easy.

Select tools

Next, I’m going to select the tools I will need to aid me in building the community. Knowing that the firm is targeting entrepreneurs, I have identified LinkedIn as an ideal tool to use.

LinkedIn has 2,344,732 members in Nigeria, most of which are business professionals and entrepreneurs. The website also supports a Group feature which is great for what I am trying to achieve.

Just like Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups allow you to invite members, facilitate discussions and connect with other members of the group (all of which is essential to community building and management).

Develop Roles

Susan and Sarah say ‘’ members of strong brand communities stay involved and add value by playing a wide variety of roles.’’ There are several roles critical to a community’s function and maintenance. They include

Mentor: possibly an expert that shares his expertise with the community

Learner: they passively sit in the background, but enjoy learning from the community

Decision Maker: the community manager who makes choices affecting the community’s structure and function

Provider: Hosts and takes care of other members

Catalyst: Introduces members to new people and ideas

Ambassador: Promotes the community to outsiders

It is my job to develop these roles in the community.

 

 

Promote the Community

Finally, I will be promoting the community to potential new members as well as keep current members engaged in the community’s activities.

I will use email marketing to achieve this.

By creating an email list of entrepreneurs both in and outside of the community, I will be sharing resources members can use to grow their business, share discussions and trending topics in the community as well as connect members in the group via an email newsletter.

Building a community around your event or business requires commitment and support. However, the benefits are worth the commitment and work.

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