Modern day digital marketing is all about quality over quantity. At some point in their lifecycle, every business has been faced with the dilemma of turning their anonymous social media audiences into engaged online communities.
In our quest to find the magic formula, we spoke to a range of marketers across industries to pick their brains on how they did it. This week, we’re focused on the power of personal connection. Read on to learn more about how these brands built vibrant communities.
‘Empathy is the value that opens the door to have more meaningful interactions’ - Dan McCormick, Director of Partnerships
With over two million cups of coffee consumed globally every day, it’s no surprise that people are interested in finding out more about their favourite beverage. At Perfect Brew, Dan McCormick wanted to capitalise on this passion to create a caffeine-focused community of people who loved to share tips and recommendations organically online. When faced with turning a large potential audience into an engaged community, they focused on developing personal relationships.
“Building a community comes from looking at customers as real people who we can relate to and connect with, rather than just people to sell to,” said Dan. “That means making them part of our marketing process and actively showing how we value their important role in making us better.” By humanising their customers, Perfect Brew were better able to develop a customer base that not only cares about coffee, but a community that feels like an integral part of the brand.
‘We didn’t want our communication to be a one-way street’ - Hamna Amjad, Community Manager
A dynamic company developed with just one goal in mind, Physicians Thrive is an advisory group that wanted to help doctors and surgeons make financial choices with confidence. As part of this, Hamna Amjad described the need to create a “thriving and engaged community” to help customers feel connected to the brand. This was a vital part of building trust and loyalty, as well as fostering a community that would “not only listen, but actively participate”.
To do this, Hamna described the process of building a personal connection. “Our first step was trying to understand our audience: their values, preferences, and affinities,” she said. “We provided platforms that fostered an open dialogue to allow them to share their thoughts freely with them.” Investing time in understanding your audience and providing spaces for them to engage with both the brand and other customers is key to creating two-way communication needed to start a community.
‘When we turn our audience into communities, we get to immerse ourselves’ - Jonathan Broder, Co-founder
At Digital Vaults, they strive to help students understand the structure of exams and help them get the grades they need to attend their dream college. Jonathan Broder told us that “creating a community felt more personal” than simply building an audience. Building a community enabled the Digital Vaults team to “tailor our marketing efforts to them”, through a deeper understanding of what mattered most to them.
“The strategy we took was to capitalise on something common that we shared,” he explained. “A community thrives on shared experience, so we thought about what they had in common.” Most importantly, Jonathan emphasised that communities aren’t built overnight. They take time, patience, and commitment. Through thoughtful communication and shared values, Digital Vaults were able to “build a good reputation for our brand”, alongside an engaged community.
‘The strategy we utilized was authenticity, being 100% open and transparent’ - Caylee Wilson, Social Media Specialist
The Snack Sack, a mutual aid organisation supporting low-income families, came from a place of compassion. Founded in April 2020 by Chamieka House-Osuya, they depended on local community to provide support for those most in need. While this involved many practical elements such as sourcing food and funding, it also required online engagement with their audience to generate support.
Caylee Wilson, a social media specialist working with The Snack Sack, emphasised the importance of transparency when building a connection with your community. “We wanted to show that Black and brown families deserved joy,” said Caylee. “We continue to grow solely based on donations; this community is built around giving back”. Transparency and their desire to help those most in need shines through on their social channels, which emphasise their commitment and encourage their online community to get involved with a good cause.
‘Unlike a community, audiences don't have goals or common values that bring their members together’ - Stephan Baldwin, Founder
According to Stephan Baldwin, “it’s not easy to turn an audience into a community, audiences are for the most part, faceless entities.” This presents a challenge, particularly when your organisation works with thousands of people every year to help them navigate personal choices. Assisted Living is focused on helping families make the best decisions for their loved ones, which requires a sensitive and empathetic approach.
To build valuable communities, you need to think carefully about how best to speak to your audience. “You have to be personable and inclusive, always making an effort to address your audience as individuals,” says Stephan. “Treat your audience like a close friend, if your goal is to create a community, you must focus on engagement first, and sales second.” Stephan also emphasised the importance of creating safe and friendly spaces for your community to engage.
‘Bringing together like-minded individuals who share a common purpose fosters a meaningful and engaging community’ - Cindy Corpis, CEO
Most of all when harnessing the power of connection to build communities, you need to remember your purpose. “Collaboration fosters creativity and growth,” says Cindy Corpis. “Sharing contributes to the community’s larger worth and bringing together like-minded individuals fosters the growth of a meaningful and engaging community.” Sharing her personal experience in founding a start-up, Cindy reminded us that building communities are not also essential for customer engagement, but for your organisation’s overall growth.
“By their very nature, communities contain a diversity of viewpoints, ideas, and expertise that you would never experience of your own. It forces you to think imaginatively and continually re-evaluate your assumptions,” Cindy said. By transforming your audience into a community, you stand to gain value insight from your communities that could shape the future of your organisation.
Looking for more inspiration to transform your audiences into engaged communities? Stay tuned for the next blog in the series or browse the Audiense blog.