In our current economy, marketing and advertising a product are simply not enough to keep people engaged. In a time of economic downturn, people want to know how they can be supported, especially by companies and large corporations that are ever-present in our lives. Although collectives and community organizations are not a new thing, companies have been adopting this community-led model lately to both facilitate growth and better support the people they are looking to serve.
Companies, today, are finding success in building online communities beyond their fundamental product and service offerings. Community-led growth is a cutting edge go-to-market strategy that is shaping the way companies interact with people and catalyzing acquisition, expansion, and growth. A community isn't just another online forum or a place to collect email addresses — it's about creating a deeper purpose for a brand and product across the customer base and giving people a true sense of connection to a brand. Companies can become a one-stop-shop for an entire industry, oftentimes creating a specific lifestyle for their communities. In return, their members will feel empowered by the brand, and may even become an ambassador of the brand, themselves.
Companies that are successful in building communities are starting to put their members first, incentivizing the growth of the community, and therefore the business. Unlike on social media, these communities are made up entirely of supporters of a company's product and mission. People become members when they are already on board and subscribing to the products and content the company is putting forward.
In a community-led model, people are valued as members, not just customers. Members have the opportunity to collaborate, interact, network, market, and provide feedback. They feel a strong sense of connection to the brand and the lifestyle the product can provide. They will feel embraced by the company and other members and feel connected to a larger purpose. When people feel a sense of belonging, they can view themselves as contributing to a greater cause.
Communities should care deeply about people and their experience with actually using the product, as opposed to people simply buying their product. In a community, members have the power to provide feedback directly to the company, often replacing or reducing the need for product reviews. Companies can then drive their efforts in a direction that is more specific to members' wants and needs. A company can opt to pivot its mission and product to align with what its community would like to see. In return, members feel valued and are more likely to demonstrate loyalty and support to the company. They may even become advocates for the company, its product, and its community, drawing in others who are like-minded. Members can play into acquisition, where community-led interactions can facilitate new lead development and consumer retention.
Investing in community is a way to provide an ongoing, immersive experience for your customer base. Companies can provide everything a member could need within a certain niche, creating a much more elevated experience for the user of the product. Companies can also provide all of the necessary supporting knowledge surrounding a product. They have the power to connect their community members to the right experts and like-minded individuals to take the user experience to the next level.
Companies must choose a reliable, multifunctional platform for their community that encourages member engagement. An organization's choice of platform can move the needle in terms of how event professionals and community teams create meaningful connections between constituents and execute successful campaigns. A strong platform to host a community is imperative to break down organizational silos and unite an entire membership base together. It is important to find an all-inclusive platform where members can schedule, promote and host community-led events all in one place.
Community-centric platforms provide the opportunity to implement incentives, reward frameworks, and gamification features to further incentivize the user's experience when using the community. Members can be celebrated for interacting and engaging with the company and other members and be directly rewarded with products, discounts, early notice for company announcements, and branded experiences. This reward structure will encourage members to continue to interact and use the brand's products again and again.
In a community-driven organization, the company has the opportunity to anticipate and understand the current trends being pushed by the community at large. Rather than running complex external campaigns for market research, companies can simply look within and directly ask their dedicated community membership base what they are needing at the time. Even without surveying the community, companies have access to useful market data from their very own sample pool.
Community gives people a platform to shine, creating opportunities for information and values to be shared on a global scale. Industry experts and potential leaders that have been standing on the sidelines are given the opportunity to step up and affect other members of the community. These individuals can be posted in the community, or even be given a larger platform to reach the masses with their message. Onboarding community leaders and ambassadors can help to structure the community and create an abundance of content for the membership base. These community leaders can serve as role models for other members and demonstrate the exemplary lifestyle the company is looking to provide.
The company can provide enrichment resources such as tutorials and use cases for their product line. Learning communities can serve to advance members' knowledge beyond an academic education, or even provide educational tools for those who may not have the finances or access to resources. They can also provide relevant courses, webinars, live streams, and podcasts to encourage deep learning. With all of these materials available, members can continue to learn new subject matter and grow themselves within their respective industries. This continued learning model enriches the talent pool within your community and industry.
Events are another effective way to expand membership and grow a community. In a post-pandemic landscape, virtual and hybrid events are quickly gaining popularity, allowing people from all over the world to attend. This is not only helping to grow communities but is also providing more people access to community-led content. Using a comprehensive community platform, members can simply meet with one another, collaborate in focus groups, or attend larger scale events like a conference. With virtual and hybrid events on the rise, people can conveniently access conference-style events, webinars, and live streams from the comfort of their own homes.
With a product-led strategy, the product takes the spotlight and is advertised as something to buy and use. In a community-led model, people become the priority, quantifying both growth of product and membership. Companies should view building a community as a multidisciplinary investment that will benefit them tenfold over the next decade. A community's organizational value can be understood through the SPACES model, a six-part framework model that aligns with Bevy's Community Engagement paradigm — Support, Product, Acquisition, Contribution, Engagement, Success.
Once customers buy into the community, it's only the beginning of their journey with the company. Brands have the power to create a lifestyle surrounding their product with supporting products, events, and newer versions and product models. This immersive experience will encourage members to continuously purchase and use the brand's products throughout their lifetime as a member. The members can promote the product directly on the community platform. When customers rave about the product, it can bring in more members and increase the company's exposure.
For example, a project management software tool can create a brand and community that provides educational content that teaches users project management best practices, as well as motivational content to inspire their members to use the tool regularly. They can use the community to organize events such as member-only webinars or networking events. They can sell additional supporting products such as courses, templates, even mentorship. Furthermore, the company can bring in experts from the industry who have been successful in managing projects, who can represent their brand and promote their products and services. Members can post their successes, and receive positive feedback from others in the community. Under this community model, members have access to everything they could possibly need to be successful in their endeavors. They will feel empowered to adopt a lifestyle of continuous learning and get involved with a community that is opening the door for them.
The true value of community is in providing an unmatched opportunity for members to be able to interact and feel enveloped in an experience. Companies have the power to enrich the lives of their members in new ways that can, in turn, benefit the company.
We will have an even deeper understanding of the potential of these communities as they evolve with Web3. Web3 and community building go hand in hand — users are encouraged to contribute, and in return benefit. Web3 communities are built on ledgers and largely depend on members to create content and self-moderate the community. Web3 communities could be tokenized based on engagement and interactions. They are decentralized markets built on open source code, giving full transparency to members and allowing them to make contributions. Companies can choose how they will govern their Web3 community, removing data from a social context to design global solutions. The structure of Web3 provides endless possibilities for the growth and expansion of communities.
Community-driven entities could light a new pathway for integrating people and business in a time of economic recession. It is empowering to imagine a world where companies and people can engage in a meaningful way for both parties. Building communities can give companies the powerful advantage of a loyal membership base, while directly supporting the needs of the users of their products. The idea of a community has been underutilized in the past. However, companies using a community-led model today are reaping bountiful benefits, as well as benefiting the community they are serving.