Online brand communities are advanced platforms that can be used in many different ways to achieve diverse business objectives. We wanted to share with you an introduction to brand communities and explain a few different ways they are used by brands.
Note: This article was originally published as a video on the Chaordix YouTube channel. You can watch the full video here.
The Evolution of Online Communities
Since the mid-80s, online communities have formed to bring individuals together across distances. What was once a domain reserved for techies, went mainstream in the early years of the new millennium, when people started using forums and instant messaging tools.
Today, there are countless online communities scattered across the internet. Some are built by normal, everyday people, and some are built by brands. Now, just because a brand might have millions of followers on Facebook, does not necessarily mean that it has a “community” of millions of people.
What are Brand Communities?
Communities form around a shared interest, attitude, or objective and often have goals that are rich and nuanced. Community members seek to learn, experiment, and improve either skills or knowledge, and they are often looking for inspiration, guidance, or mentorship. The currency of communities is camaraderie, creativity and ideas. Can you get those things from Wendy’s on Twitter? Probably not.
Some brands have begun to evolve past broadcasting to their customers using social or more traditional channels like TV or print, and they’ve moved towards a more dynamic, relationship focussed medium: online communities.
An online brand community is a world that the brand controls, often on a software platform, like ours, that sits outside mainstream social media. This is a place where brands can connect directly with their customers and biggest fans, where they don’t have to worry about ads or shady data practices.
Brands like LEGO, Sephora, Harley-Davidson and Ford have launched thriving online communities.
Here are a Few Ways They are Used:
Co-creation: What does this fancy word mean? It’s innovation speak for collaboration between an organization and outside parties, like customers. LEGO has a co-creation community called LEGO Ideas where fans invent new LEGO sets and then vote for their favourite fan-created sets.
User generated content: Sephora’s community empowers their customers to post pictures of their products in action, and they connect fans with one another to answer questions.
Activities: Online communities often play host to activities or events. The Harley Owners Group and Ford’s Bronco Nation use their communities to coordinate regular in-person meetups and Rust-Oleum’s Creator’s Studio launches weekly creative activities and exciting DIY challenges.
These brand communities act as effective communication channels, connecting brands with their fans in an authentic way. They provide product ideas, user generated content, and ways to activate fans. Online communities are a natural evolution of social media, and can be so much more than basic forums.
If you are thinking about launching an online brand community, reach out to us. We would love to chat. If you’ve already got a brand community, subscribe to our YouTube channel for more content about how you can boost engagement and drive real business value with your community.