There’s been an interesting development in the business world since social media came about a decade ago.
The idea of Community has become something that businesses have latched onto.
Does your business need a community?
You can probably get by without focusing on building a community, but it’s interesting when you think about businesses and how they interact with people – customers, partners, employees, etc.
Let’s explore this idea of community a little more and see if a community is right for your brand.
Understanding Your Customer
I just got done reading Quench Your Thirst by Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams. It was a really good book. I never really thought about the beer and the story behind it and the people behind the brand, but the book was really good.
One of the things Jim focused on in the book was the culture or cultures surrounding the brand. There was a culture amongst the employees. It reflected Jim and the early partners and employers. They loved craft beer. They made sure that their mission was always to provide the best American beers and their culture was kind of built around that mission.
Jim also focused on his core target customer: beer drinkers that prefer quality.
An important note, Jim doesn’t look down on any other kind of drinker. He knows there are plenty of people that prefer light beers or things that the major breweries make. He’s totally fine with that.
But he also knows that there are drinkers that prefer quality and variety and different things that they haven’t tasted before. That’s the person he focused on for his beer.
And with that understanding came a community around the brand. I don’t know if Jim meant for that to happen, but it seems evident from reading the book and now paying attention to the Samuel Adams brand that there is a community there.
The lesson in that story is that a brand community really begins with an understanding of your core customer. And it’s not just a one time realization of who those people are. Jim still spends time in taverns talking with beer drinkers. He talks to people that drink Sam Adams and people that don’t. He’s always learning about beer drinkers and it helps him understand more and more about who his core customer is and what they want.
Something To Bring People Together
If you start looking at brands that seem to have communities you’ll start noticing things that bring that community together. With Sam Adams it’s the love of quality craft beer and the pursuit of creating the best possible beer. That’s a journey and a mission that brings certain people together.
There’s a small brewery in my hometown (not sure where the beer theme is coming from…) that started up a few years ago. They wanted to create good craft beer, but I think more than that their community has formed around European heritage and family. My wife and I visit their brewery once in awhile and what you’ll find in the tap room is one group playing cribbage. Another group will be talking about the German and Czech decor. Another group will have their kids and those kids will be eating pretzels and talking about their soccer game the night before.
It’s a family atmosphere, which is unique for a place that sells beer. You can feel it when you visit. You feel comfortable bringing family of all ages. That’s another “something” that kind of brings people together to form a community.
You see this all the time in sports. The NFL season is getting started and fans are rallying around their teams. The team and the pursuit of the Super Bowl is something to bring the fans together every season. They’re excited about new players and the changes that have made the team better since the previous season.
What is something that people can bond over together as it relates to your brand?
A goal. A feeling. A mission. An enemy.
The Benefits Of Community
Does your brand need a community?
I think most businesses can benefit from fostering community.
Sam Adams went through some tough times during the last 30+ years. They struggled when craft beer overall took a hit for a decade. They struggle when they made some bad PR choices. They had a big recall.
Through every struggle they found that their community, the customers that really loved them, were always there. Your biggest supporters will always be there. They know that we all make mistakes. They want you to succeed because your success in their eyes is also their success.
But you have to foster the community. You have to make people feel like your success is their success.
A community will support you during inevitable tough times. They will get excited when you launch new products and services. They’ll be the first in line. They’ll sing your praises when outsiders talk down on you. They’ll be your best salesforce by telling their friends about your brand.
This article didn’t really focus on channels at all. As I was writing I kind of noticed that happening and I think it’s for a reason.
Brand communities seem to have been around for a long time. They were around before social media, but I think social media has helped foster communities around businesses.
Fostering community comes from everything you and those in your business do. It comes from how you interact with people in person. It comes through in your emails. It comes through in your phone calls and in how you interact on Facebook and Twitter. You can foster a community through any channel. Choose the one, two or three channels that fit best with your business and focus on the community as you use those channels.
So, yes, I do think your brand can benefit from a community. Understand your core customer. Figure out the best channels to foster that community and focus on the “something” your community can gather around and you’ll be in good shape.