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Communities form in the wild all the time.

Shared interests, shared passions, an unspoken desire to belong, a catalytic event. All these things can bring people together and form the basis for a community to form and grow.

But for a brand community, to get your customers to work with you, to get them invested beyond the act of buying the odd product or liking a couple of social media posts, you need to do more strategic work upfront. And you need to devote ongoing strategic energy to help the community mature: in its commercial outputs for your brand, and in the relationships that form inside it. They won’t commit if you don’t.

The number one reason brand communities underperform or fail is poor strategy and planning – both at the launch of the community and on an ongoing basis.

These typically include failures in:

  • Establishing a clear and compelling purpose for your community
  • Understanding who your community participants are and what they want
  • Understanding and employing intrinsic and extrinsic incentives
  • Developing a community model where both participants and the brand benefit
  • Recruiting your target participants
  • Developing clear measures for success and incorporating related activities and incentives
  • Choosing the platform(s) that give you reasonable control over the way your participants’ data is used and the digital experience is delivered
  • Building activities and experiences that nurture authentic human behaviour and communities (not brand-driven advertising disguised as those things)

Strategic failures in the above areas often manifest themselves in a limited group of participants gathering in some digital space to work on a defined project. They start enthusiastic. The community’s potential becomes obvious. But then there’s a drop-off. People contribute less. They leave. The brand looks at the community as a failed experiment and moves on. And wonder why their brand doesn’t have the cache of some of the cult brands out there, the ones people see as core to their own identity.

Over the last decade our team has built a process to explore and define community strategies that are proven to engage and activate your community members, keep them engaged and interested for the long term and turn what’s often a marketing expense into a measurable producer of value. This is our fundamental belief: your brand community should have an embedded business model that drives growth, cost savings and impact. Ensuring you check the strategic boxes above will help you do just that.

This article was originally published as part of our #IOVIAradar newsletter.