Building and Leveraging Communities

Growing your business requires a lot of hard work, a lot of passion, and a little luck. Maintaining that growth requires even more of all of those, but one area where many business owners can concentrate to help continue success is in building community around their brand. It’s not a secret that creating a community around your brand helps create product evangelists, and in the process from creating a community to training and arming your product evangelists, there are a lot of places to go right and wrong.

I’ll take a look at the major steps involved in creating community around your brand, and also provide information on how to groom that community to become your product and industry evangelists.  I’ll also show you how to aid that community in doing legwork for your brand on their own.  Of course, I’ll provide many useful examples as well.

Let’s get started.

Building Community

Building community is obviously important, but I love these simple tips from Building a community around your brand doesn’t have to take millions of dollars, and doesn’t have to take a marketing team of 50 people. All it takes is smarts, creativity, and ingenuity. Marketing at the small business level is the same as marketing at the big business level; it doesn’t matter how much money you have if you don’t have the creativity and passion to make your ideas a reality. But what are some examples of creative marketing solutions that help build a community?

Guerrilla Marketing

In my younger years, I worked for several summer and winter breaks from college in the radio industry. I was a promotions assistant and DJ for several stations in my home state of Maine. During my time, especially as a promotions assistant, I learned many valuable lessons around marketing. In radio you’re nothing without an audience. And while many people may see the key to winning the air war as simply having the best music, or broadcasting a style of music that appeals to the broadest amount of fans, in reality success comes with building a solid base of fans. A solid community of people who identify with the brand, and promote on their own, is truly how you get to number one.

A tactic we used often is what is now popularly known as guerrilla marketing. Guerrilla marketing is essentially using a public place to perform some sort of unexpected act of marketing, basically anything public that generates buzz for your company. One of my favorite guerrilla campaigns was what we called our “Beach Invasion Tour.” Each Friday I’d visit a car dealership that was a sponsor of the station, pick up whatever sexy car they had ready for us that day, then we’d slap some magnets advertising our promotion on the side and head to the beach.

Once we got to our designated beach for the day, we’d hang out for an hour, hand out lots of swag (frisbees, stickers, concert tickets) and leave. While we were on our way, and while there, the jocks on air would tell people about our location, and what we were giving away, the most ardent and loyal fans would track us down. We worked hard at building new fans as well as rewarding the hardcore base and our marketing analyses showed that those guerrilla promotions resulted in greater ratings, and greater listener fidelity.

While guerrilla marketing is a term and technique pioneered in the 1980s, it’s still relevant in 2012. I will detail examples, principles, and even provide research to back it up.

Experiential Marketing

This piece from does a solid job of defining the fundamentals of experiential marketing. Some great experiential marketing examples come from the auto industry. Think about any BWM commercial you’ve ever seen, they emphasize quality, power, precision, comfort — all aspects of luxury. Even their tagline pushes something experiential: the ultimate driving machine.

What’s important about experiential marketing is that it evokes emotion, creates feeling and works with the passion in the audience to create a bond with the product. Have you ever watched the AMC show Mad Men? It’s a period piece that takes place in the 1960s and 70s, portraying the lives of Madison Avenue advertising executives. The protagonist in the show, Don Draper, has a quote that I think perfectly sums up experiential marketing: “What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.” While it’s cynical, and most people wouldn’t actually believe it to be true, it lends itself to an interesting point — experiential marketing is based solely around cultivating feelings, passion, and identification with an experience.

So how is this relevant to building a community? If you can craft a particular experience, passion or feeling around your product with which consumers identify, they’ll know to seek your product to achieve that feeling. The best part is that in 2012 you can create experiential marketing on a limited budget. You don’t necessarily have to create tv spots, radio commercials, giant billboards, or pay a marketing firm hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it for you. How can you do it?

Get Social

As you’re building a brand with which people identify, one that conjures positive feelings in them, it’s important to use that brand in a medium that encourages your consumers and others in your target market to engage. We all know the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc. So let’s concentrate on what really matters, how to use those social sites to build your brand. As usual, offers up 10 excellent tips.

Number 2 on their list, getting to know your users, is exceedingly important. This will allow you to tailor your marketing strategies (whatever they may be) to that target audience. Another important part to creating community through social is having a personality, listed at number 9. Think about this in terms of making new friends — nobody wants to be friends and engage with someone who’s bland. Building a community requires taking risks, and giving your brand a personality around which a community can form. Social provides one of the most perfect media possible for this.

But perhaps my favorite two points are these: think in terms of advocates, not just numbers, and connect and help your community members. Because after you’ve taken your risks, put your ideas into motion, experimented with creating experience and getting your message out in creative ways, the next important step is grooming your community, and readying them to promote your brand for you.

Here are three quick takeaways on building community:

1.     Take risks, be creative, and find a way to spread the word about your business in an original and impactful way.

2.     Build a narrative around your marketing to create a certain perspective and a certain experience. Tap into the passions and values of your target market.

3.     Get. Social. Find and interact with your growing community. Give them reasons to believe in your brand, and understand their role as advocates not just consumers.

Next time we will talk about grooming your community to become evangelists for your business.

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Jason is a 30-something that lives in Denver, CO. He has very red hair, loves the outdoors, and all things homebrew. He has a social media addiction, and can be found at

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