As you’re well aware, traditional influencer marketing is fairly straightforward in theory – find someone who’s a specialist in a field that resonates well with your brand and/or has a huge social media following, then pay them to endorse your product. We all know this form of marketing can be pricey, and sometimes risky, but get the art of influencer marketing right and your brand will reap the rewards.
Nothing beats traditional influencers for awareness. Want to broadcast a new product to millions of people practically instantaneously? Pay a top influencer to post an image and a hashtag. But how can you translate this instant awareness campaign into lasting love for a brand that gets millions of followers clicking the purchase button, not just once but time and time and again? And not only that, continuing to share content and hashtags around your product, getting you an increasingly large slice of that social share?
Community marketing operates on some of the same principles. Individuals in a community could be specialists in a field that resonates well with your product. But they often differ from your average influencer in key ways. A typical community member might be someone with a much smaller social media following than traditional celebrity influencers and will be differently motivated when it comes to talking about or creating content around your brand.
Despite tending to have a much smaller following, these individuals – or micro-influencers – can work wonders for your social media presence when you bring them together in a community. But most importantly, a brand community is made up of real customers, who’s love for the brand cannot be faked or manufactured.
How a brand community works, and how you can create one
Members of a brand community tend to be driven by different values to traditional influencers, including exclusivity, passion, exposure, and creativity. By providing the right conditions you can enable community creators to flourish and do more of what they do best. You can empower regular customers to become organic influencers.
Create an exclusive invite-only brand community by providing a specially designed community digital platform where community influencers can talk to each other, and where marketers can speak directly to community influencers. Such a digital platform can also enable you to save time by using smart technology to seek out potential community members who are already talking about and creating content around your brand.
By talking to your creative community directly, you can brief them on new challenges, campaigns, products, and product research. And by rewarding them in ethical ways, such as providing them with a valuable platform for their work, invitations to product launches, or even just basking in the warm glow of being part of your community, you can benefit from their combined energy in exchange for comparatively little investment.
Here are some of the key ways creative community members can support your brand:
Traditional influencers have the power to push content to millions of followers, but the trade-off is that they’re simply unable to find enough time to engage with most fans in the comments. By contrast, creative community members each have their own virtual ‘turf’. The power of having smaller follower numbers means that they can engage with fellow brand fans and potential brand advocates one-on-one, giving brands a personal touch. Their expertise and love for your brand will guarantee that their message and enthusiasm are informative and crucially, infectious.
Think of these community members as the foot soldiers of your campaign, giving you the word of mouth power. While it’s true that individually a community influencer might have little in the way of reach, a community of such creators combines to give impressive total reach that rivals that of the traditional influencer.
Creative community members might be brand enthusiasts who are already creating user-generated content or UGC for short about your brand. UGC is a broad descriptor for organic content that encompasses reviews, unboxing videos, product demonstrations, and more creative applications with your brand at the heart. As UGC is driven by brand love, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to run a marketing campaign. These creators typically love your brand so much they’re already creating content showcasing your brand before you’ve even invited them to your community.
By bringing creators together you can encourage them to generate even more UGC by briefing them with UGC challenges for example, and your community digital platform will allow you to quickly collate, and license generated content for automated distribution on your brand channels.
Paid influence is great for awareness, but authenticity resonates like nothing else. Because real brand fans aren’t motivated by money and are likely to have more in common with the average consumer, everything they do around your brand will have a stamp of authenticity. Research has shown that 92% of people trust earned media such as recommendations from peers over traditional media (Source: Nielsen).
By incorporating community influencers into traditional influencer strategies, you can resist the usual campaign buzz drop-off by taking the momentum from the awareness campaign and translating that into community action. By spinning off initial sponsored acts, your community foot soldiers can keep the conversation going and encourage the creation of more content, giving your campaigns lasting longevity and building a digital brand community that will last through many campaigns to come.