Community Marketing 101 – What It Is and How to Do It Right

Marketing in today’s world is more important than ever before. With more people connecting online and looking for information, products, and services, marketers must find new ways to capture the attention of customers and keep them coming back for more. One popular tactic is community marketing.

What is community marketing, you ask? It is essentially marketing made visible through good old-fashioned interaction with real humans. Think of it as marketing through conversation instead of traditional marketing techniques (i.e., banner ads, billboards, radio spots, TV appearances, etc.).

“Community marketing is, in simple terms, marketing that builds community. The goal is to connect with customers, potential customers, and/or other relevant individuals (i.e., bloggers, Facebook users, etc.) online and create awareness, interest, and eventually, sales or leads that would not have been generated otherwise. The beauty of this type of marketing is that it costs practically nothing. All a marketer needs are a few good ideas, a laptop/desktop, and a bit of social media presence. Plus, you don’t need any prior marketing experience to get started,” says Chris Garrett, owner of Chrizzzzy, a branding and marketing agency based in London.

The internet has made it easier than ever for anyone to market anything, so long as they have a laptop and a decent connective device (i.e., wifi, 4G LTE, 3G, etc.). If you’ve got a business idea or a product that you think could use some attention, why not give it a try? You can often find success stories by searching for campaigns that started as simple community building exercises and turned into a fruitful endeavor.

Why Should You Do Community Marketing?

First, let’s examine the benefits of community marketing.

“It is estimated that there are more than 400 million households with smartphones in the world, and this figure is growing. With so many people having access to the internet, there is a large audience of potential customers that you can engage with,” says Max Fisher, cofounder and Director of Blossom.

“Creating a community around a brand or product can engage new customers and help them feel more involved in the conversation; in turn, this can increase brand loyalty and the purchase of more expensive items,” says Fisher.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, community marketing is a great opportunity to build trust and credibility with your audience. When users interact with you and your brand on social media platforms, they can see your level of expertise and whether you are being completely open and honest about your product or service. In turn, this can increase your online authority and make your audience more receptive to your messages.

“The most engaging forms of content allow consumers to play an active role in the messaging. So, instead of just consuming the content, they can also participate in delivering the message. Examples of this type of content include Twitter polls, Facebook live videos, and Instagram stories. When used effectively, these forms of content can drive consumer response and action. Ultimately, this means that you can reach more people, create more interest, and make more sales.

How Can Small Businesses Use Community Marketing To Their Advantage?

Let’s assume you’re starting a new business or you’re an existing business that wants to find new customers. Where do you start?

Depending on your industry, you might consider using one of the big platforms like Facebook or Instagram to gain instant credibility with audiences, or you might decide to take a more curated approach and join several smaller communities that you think could benefit your business.

For example, if you’re creating a blog for your business, you might choose to join the Fashion Industry Leaders community on LinkedIn, the Million Dollar Productive family on Instagram, or the Blogging Babes Connect community on WordPress.org. By participating in these three communities, you can expose your blog to over 300,000 people (on a good day), 100,000 people (on a regular day), and 65,000 people (on a bad day) respectively.

Each of these communities focuses on a specific area of interest (i.e., fashion, productivity, blogging, etc.), but they also have a shared interest in web design, content creation, and marketing. So, even if you don’t fit directly into one of these categories, you might still discover value in participating in the community. Plus, by sharing your expertise with others in the community, you can get feedback that can help you improve your own business or product.

Build A Marketing List

Once you’ve joined a community, you’ll see a list of people in the community that are similar to you. So, if you decide that you want to get in touch with these individuals regarding your product or service, you can do so directly from the platform. For example, if you’re on LinkedIn, you can just click on the Community tab at the top of the page, find your niche, and begin building your list.

You can also find similar communities on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Once you’ve joined these platforms, you can use the Search feature to look for communities that are dedicated to your niche or industry. You can then follow these communities to get updates on your niche and build a small list of potential customers in your niche.

As you add people to your list, you can determine a variety of information about each person. LinkedIn allows you to search for up to five of the most significant contacts, while Twitter lets you search for people and brands.

Use Forums

Forums are a great place to engage with other community members regarding your product or service. They are essentially online communities where users can converse with each other regarding a variety of topics. If you’ve got a business or a product that you think could benefit from some discussion, why not give it a try? Find a relevant forum for your niche and begin contributing your thoughts. If someone else in the community has already started the conversation and you want to join in, you can do so by simply adding your two cents worth.

Forums can be a bit of a dangerous place for a new contributor; if you say the wrong thing at the wrong time, you can end up offending a large number of people. To avoid this, be careful about what you say and when you say it. For example, if you’re discussing a sensitive topic and you don’t want to give the impression that you’re being disrespectful or insensitive, say something like, “that’s a really interesting perspective” instead of “you’re wrong”.

Keep in mind that forums are a great place to engage with existing customers as well as potential customers, so don’t forget about them when you’re building your community.

Curate Content

If you’re a business owner or a marketer looking for content to share, what do you do? You can’t create content for every platform; there’s too much to do anyway. That’s why you often see businesses using multiple platforms, which is something marketers should avoid due to the ever-changing algorithms on social media.

While some platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are great at distributing content (in the form of news feeds and timelines, respectively), other platforms focus more on specific topics. For example, TikTok is a place where users can create short-form videos and share them with other users. For some businesses, this can be an invaluable source of content that they can use across different platforms and social media channels.

Why not try something new and use a tool like TikTok to your advantage? A 2016 HubSpot research survey found that 77% of marketers say video content is going to be important in the future of PR and marketing, so why not try and find a use for this valuable content?

Use A/B Testing

If you’ve ever tried to change something about your Web page and saw little, if any, impact from your changes, then you might be inclined to try something new. If so, why not use A/B testing to your advantage? This is essentially the practice of running two (or more) different versions of a Web page or email campaign and measuring the results to determine which one performed the best.

You can use A/B testing with virtually any marketing endeavor (not just Web pages), so long as you have the means to run two different experiments. For example, if you’ve got an e-commerce store and you want to test dropping the price of a product by 10% in order to see how this affects your sales, or you want to try a new type of social media campaign and see which version performs best.