In the past few decades, companies, marketing departments, and C-suites have used the term "community" to refer to a variety of ideas, from far-reaching organizational investments – such as neighborhood events or charity partnerships – to online forums and even simple e- Mail lists.
These ideas are aimed at creating a sense of people's collective belonging long before we begin to record isolation and loneliness. But most (and sometimes all) of these community building measures are superficial or even irrelevant to what constitutes a real community.
We call the resulting so-called communities mirage communities: groups that organizations can call communities, but which cannot be recognized by a trained eye.
However, there is a growing number of organizations that take the need for community much more seriously. These organizations invest in effective community principles and are rewarded with breakthrough innovations, critical feedback, brand loyalty and employee engagement.
But these rewards don't seem magical. They require a special investment.
How are some of today's most successful companies doing it? Let's explore how Google, Twitch, and Sephora implement authentic community building strategies and how your own business can do that.
1. Google invests in labs.
At Google, the success of the community takes the form of groups or "labs".
Each Google Lab brings together approximately 100 thought leaders in specific industries to address some of today's most pressing issues. Google Labs promotes mutual respect and concern among members, resulting in conversations, collaborations, and opportunities that have never been possible before. This is part of what keeps Google at the top of every "most innovative" company list today.
For example, Google's Food Lab focuses on the production, purchase and presentation of food. Its members take on the most important food challenges: "How do we convert our culture to a plant-based diet?" on "How do we eliminate waste in our food system?"
In return, Google is praised as a brand that inspires the food industry while refining (and reducing) its own tremendous spending on healthy food benefits for employees – which at some point incurs costs almost $ 72 million a year in the main office "Googleplex" alone.
2. Twitch is successful with local groups.
Twitch attracts over 2 million people every month to watch and broadcast digital video broadcasts. Their approach is based on a two-sided market: you have to attract both broadcasters and viewers. Local community groups help them to be successful.
Twitch has built a global team to support 40 local groups in the cityEach of them hosts real and virtual events that promote real friendships and deep relationships between local Twitch members. However, local groups (and their leaders) must first show how well they can bring members together.
These local groups enable Twitch to transform online interactions – which often feel transactional – into connections that have real meaning. Members keep coming back to the brand and recruiting others to participate, as Twitch is a place where authentic emotional investments take place.
3. Sephora says "yes" to beauty fans.
Sephora – one of the largest beauty retailers in the world – has invested in building one Makeup enthusiast community This is both accessible on mobile devices and integrated into the shopping experience.
Members can discuss a variety of beauty products and methods within the community, regardless of whether or not they are related to Sephora products. Within the community, Sephora enables members to pursue interesting topics and connect with other members, keep up with trends, chat with brands and gain access to exclusive events.
Community members can also get access to beauty techniques and product information, interact with founders of beauty companies, and experience an affirmative space with others who love fun, play, and transformation of makeup.
What do these examples have in common?
Real communities consist of relationships. Always. Relationships exist in the area of personal experience, and although they can involve transactions, they are never purely transactional. That includes a little generosity – at least the way we help others without calculating the return on investment (ROI) for sending a card, answering a timely question, or opening a door for a stranger who is out of the cold is coming.
To build an effective brand community, you must reject the premise that everything an organization does or offers must generate profit or exist within a transaction. Instead, community building efforts help consumers see more long-term value in your brand.
People don't commit, feel safe in relationships, or expand for relationships that serve only one person (or brand) who "gets" something as cheaply and easily as possible. We are committed to relationships in which we believe that others care about our success.
In a real community, members help each other to become who they want to be. This can include sharing information, skills, hard-won lessons, and – very often – attentive friendships. If a brand can offer this to members (e.g. customers, users, employees, colleagues or volunteers), something much richer and more rewarding can develop.
Three tips to build a real community
- Go beyond the transaction. Make sure you go well beyond building transaction relationships. Offering vouchers or simply inviting someone to a virtual or personal event is not enough.
- Define how you help members. Formulate exactly how you enrich the lives of community members – help them, not just your business goals.
- Think small. Community happens in little experiences. Intentionally create so-called "campfire experiences", which are intimate experiences where participants have closeness, permission and time to connect with a small group.