Forbes 30 Under 30. Founder and CEO of Glewee, the all-in-one influencer marketing platform.
The marketing life cycle had been stuck on “mature” until digital communities were born. Now, I believe marketing is back in the rising star phase of its life cycle. Traditionally, big business marketing looked something like this:
• Brands hired agencies.
• Agencies hired creative directors and media planners.
• Ads were placed.
• Consumers received one-way messages that encouraged them to buy.
The model continued as the media landscape changed from analog to digital. Email marketing and digital display ads—even early social media ads—were basically one-way communication.
But seemingly overnight—spurred by a pandemic that caused many to reevaluate their values, preferences and buying behaviors—consumers’ purchase process changed. I’ve found that no longer are consumers happy to be the receivers of Madison Avenue output only; they want to participate. And, from my perspective, the internet itself, connected digital phones, social media and the influencer community have all reached a kind of critical mass at the same time.
The result? A magic moment of supply and demand that changed marketing forever.
Very quickly, the one-way conversation morphed into a more satisfying two-way discussion. Consumers have become not just the object of a brand’s desire but also a critical part of an online dialog that often includes social media influencers. Consumers can probe and investigate companies. Are they good environmental stewards? Do they treat their employees well? Consumers can also evaluate a company’s products. Do they have good reviews? And they consider customer service. Is the company demonstrating good values as it responds to questions before a purchase?
Modern Marketing Ecosystems
I believe the modern marketing ecosystem is a collaborative effort among brands, agencies, media platforms, creators and influencers to empower consumers to share their opinions, experiences and knowledge with others in a supportive and engaging environment. This ecosystem creates a sense of belonging and community for consumers, thus enabling them to connect with like-minded individuals and form meaningful relationships with brands.
This sense of belonging and empowerment has transformed how consumers interact with brands and can create a more collaborative and inclusive approach to marketing. From my perspective, online communities have given rise to a more authentic and engaging approach that prioritizes the consumer experience and empowers customers to connect with brands and one another more meaningfully.
According to data from GWI, a market research company, 76% of global internet users engaged with online communities in 2019. Brands that recognize the value of these communities can effectively engage with their target audience, build brand loyalty and ultimately drive sales.
Building Successful Online Communities
Online communities create a space for customers to connect, engage and share their experiences. Through communities, brands can:
• Build relationships: Creating a space for customers to connect and engage with one another can help brands foster a sense of community and build stronger relationships with their customers.
• Generate feedback: Online communities can provide brands with valuable feedback and insights into customer needs, preferences and pain points. This feedback can inform product development and marketing strategies, as well as help brands create new products, improve existing offerings and stay ahead of the competition.
• Support cost-effective marketing: Online communities can help brands reduce their marketing spend and reach a wider audience through word-of-mouth, social sharing and other organic channels.
The biggest mistake brands make when trying to build an online community is to jump in without a plan. To get started the right way:
1. Identify the target audience.
Brands must first identify their target audience. Who are you trying to reach? What motivates them? How do they consume information? When your brand clearly understands its target audience, you can tailor your content, products, services and messages to speak directly to them.
2. Define the online platform’s purpose and goals.
Brands need to know what they want to achieve with this online community. Goals inform the design, content and strategies with the reality of their audiences. When goal setting, it’s important to consider both quantitative and qualitative impacts that might be affected.
3. Choose your platform.
Select the right platform for the community. Can the platform accommodate growth as the community’s user base increases? Is the platform secure? What type of data is collected and stored? Is the platform user-friendly? Can the platform be customized?
Engaging With Influencers To Build Online Communities
Brands seeking to build and expand their online communities might choose to partner with social media influencers. By leveraging an influencer’s reach, brands have the potential to amplify their messaging, foster engagement, establish trust and authenticity and gather feedback.
Influencers often have a highly engaged and loyal following that values their opinions and recommendations. As a result, they can encourage their followers to take action, which can help grow your community’s follower base and reach.
But before collaborating with an influencer, it’s important for a brand to look at the influencer’s followers and ensure their audience matches the brand’s target audience. If there is a mismatch, the influencer will not be able to reach your audience or deliver your desired outcomes. Also, assess the influencer’s level of influence. An influencer with a large following but little engagement will not be as effective as an influencer who has highly engaged followers.
Establishing clear expectations is key to a successful partnership with influencers. Effectively communicate your objectives, deliverables, content guidelines and specific messaging or calls-to-action.
And, most importantly, remember that active engagement with the community is crucial when leveraging influencer collaborations. Take the initiative to interact with community members who join through these partnerships by responding to comments, addressing questions and facilitating meaningful interactions.
Building A Community Takes A Village
Brands, agencies, media platforms, creators and influencers are all part of a new marketing ecosystem. Building a community takes time, effort and a commitment to creating authentic, valuable customer experiences. By prioritizing relationship-building and investing in the right strategies and tools, you can create a loyal and engaged community that will help drive growth and success for your brand over the long term.
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