How do you see your consumer community?

If I got a thousand rupees for every time I heard a brand manager say “We already have a big community of consumers,” I would be a billionaire vacationing in Hawaii.

But when a Marketer says ‘I have a Community of 10 lac consumers’, what they actually mean is…

“We have captured 10 lac mobile/email addresses to reach out to” OR
“We have 10 lac likes on our FB page, or followers on twitter/instagram” OR
“We have 10 lac people registered on our website/for our newsletter” OR
“We have pixel data of 10 lac people that have engaged with us in the past”.

This is the Biggest Mistake Big Brands are making today. What they call a community, is nothing but a Database. And databases usually have single-digit engagement.

A community in the real sense is much larger. It’s NOT about ‘a Group of consumers that engage with the brand, but about a Group of consumers that engage WITH EACH OTHER over the category.’

So how can brands start creating a genuine community instead of a database?

1. Give your consumers a REASON to bond with each other: What really bonds communities is a larger purpose, shared identity or a common enemy. Look for Conversational TRUTHS that the community is based on.
2. Find a platform that you want to grow this community on. FB groups is a great choice. Don’t get bogged down by starting your own platform just for this.
3. Create a Content plan that helps keep the members INFORMED.
4. Create a Community Plan – that helps keep the members feeling SUPPORTED in times of need.
5. Create a Relationship Plan – that helps the members better BOND with each other.
6. Create a Recognition Plan – that creates PRIDE in the community and helps members feel acknowledged and recognized.
7. Create a Brand Integration Plan – a way for brands to authentically get insights, engagement, education, reviews, conversations, trials, UGC and a lot more in a more relevant and timely manner.
8. Keep it ALWAYS On. Community-Marketing is not a ‘campaign’ led approach to brand-building where you can dip in and dip out. Long-term investment is the key to reaping benefits over the years as the community grows.
9. See if there is an EXISTING community your brand can join VS. building your own from scratch. I am always a firm believer in going to where the party is, vs starting your own.
10. Get a Strong Community-building PARTNER on board. There are organizations and agencies that have built the expertise on creating and managing communities. Choose one that understands the craft.

Everyone wants to drive engagement, but as marketers our ‘comfort zone’ still lies with driving Reach. We have more control in designing a reach-based media plan. After all, Engagement is just so darn difficult to deliver!

Brands are running a popularity contest and ‘no of friends’ is always more important than depth of relationship. But the truth is, this approach is shallow. Because engagement is about DEPTH of relationships. And just like in real life, the only way to get genuine engagement is to spend quality time with your consumer adding value to their lives and helping them make friends!

Brands often come to us asking for campaigns that will drive website-traffic, or views or some other vanity metric. Much of my time is spent trying to educate marketing leaders on the Power of an authentic community. Almost like trying to educate someone that an SIP in mutual funds is a better long-term investment than a Savings Account. So the advice I most repeat to all clients, is to stop collecting databases, and start creating genuine social-value. Its time a brand celebrated the human being, for the social-being she is.

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