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Building a brand community takes time because the rules of human communities still apply in the digital space. The contributions of individuals and groups become more potent over time.

The person in your community just lurking and taking it all in today? She might be a super participant six months later. The large cluster of people not producing any particular output? They may be your on-demand go-to-market team 18 months from now.

You have to understand this process when you look at community growth and outputs.

But you do get outputs right away.

In fact, the brand communities we build for clients typically return 150%+ of their initial investment within just a few months, often with only a few hundred participants. That’s the start you can expect. From there, the returns only grow.

These returns come along the value curve shown above. So those initial outputs will usually be centred on insights, ideas and content – which is where most brands focus as they build their communities. Brands can almost immediately get more useful and actionable research outputs with a brand community than they can with traditional methods. And they get also get high quality consumer-generated marketing content at a fraction of the price their in-house marketing teams or creative agencies will charge. They are saving money almost right from day one.

The most forward-thinking brands are usually the quickest to understand what an initial pilot community can do when scaled up – in terms of participants, markets and value produced.

With many clients, we don’t even have to make a case for expanded investment. The math does itself. A brand community is one of the single best investments a brand can make in the future of its business.

But not everybody gets it.

Not everybody is patient enough to reap the rewards.

Your ROI gets exponentially greater with community maturity

In the past we’ve worked with brands who have ‘paused’ their communities or failed to keep investing (despite the obvious returns). This is understandable. A brand community can feel like a luxury for some brands. It’s not as corporately acceptable as putting a bunch of money into social media campaigns, which has been the increasingly questionable way brands have spent their consumer engagement money.

But here’s what we see again and again – those brands that untether themselves to past approaches are the ones who are building sustainable futures.

And the others?

Well, we have our suspicions.

But we’ll wait and see what happens.