While brand communities have always existed it has never really been measured beyond a number of followers, likes, or shares an account has. We know intuitively that brand communities are a necessity for organizations, however, we still don't know very much about what builds a community and what actually creates a community that converts.
That's why we've set out to find out exactly how this works. By looking at the social psychology of communities, we now know how communities think. We've created a simple survey that can allow anyone to score their community and help analyze exactly how healthy it is.
If your community scores an A (80-100%), you have a thriving community with high conversions. If it scores a B (70-79%), you have a large thriving community but it may not be a major source of conversion. If your community scores a C (60-69%), you may have a thriving community but potentially they may be deterring conversion as much as they create conversions. Anything below a C indicates you might have some shape or form of a community, but it doesn’t qualify as a strong brand community. These scores are generalizations to give a sense of your community’s stage. Results can vary and we have to take a closer look at your specific case to draw more confident conclusions.
Below are three examples of communities that span scores from A to C. The three examples are large, well-known communities. They are all B2C for the sake of ease and familiarity. However, communities don't have to be B2C - they can exist in B2B environments as well.
Also note, a community doesn't need to be large in size. Rather, the community needs to have the seven factors listed below. Each one is a key component of creating a community. We rated each community by one platform because a community must exist on one main online platform with offline events. (See more in our ‘Key components of a community’ article).
Lululemon - Score = 24/35 - 69% C+
Lululemon is a great example of a community with a large tribe that works for and against their brand. This illuminates the importance of consistently investing in your community over time and keeping a good pulse on their needs.
Lululemon scored quite high because of the foundational work they initially put into the brand itself. Their vision and passion are quite clear. Even their existing tribesmen are still quite loyal to the brand.
Lululemon continually invests by providing content that is useful for their community but their community is scattered. They have too many places to engage with the brand which makes knowing where to fully engage with the community as a member confusing. It seems most of their followers are congregating on Instagram so we’ve used that as the main platform to examine. It’s not the best platform for a community since it doesn’t provide flexible two-way conversations between members and organizers.
While there are events happening offline, it seems that most events are still surrounded by the love of yoga instead of a greater purpose. Its dominant commercial voice creates a level of inauthenticity. The lack of a vision positions them as a values-based organization with a lack of commitment to those values.
Lululemon were pioneers of the yoga movement, and now it seems they’re more interested in the technology of their apparel rather than the community they created. While they still create content that supports the values of Yogis, it no longer rings true.
A way to resolve this would be to establish a vision. To clearly state a purpose for the organization and its role in the Yoga community. This will provide their tribesmen with fuel to utilize their passion towards contributing to a greater mission. This doesn't mean the vision needs to be misaligned with their agenda of making sales, it can still contribute to their bottom line. It does, however, have to come from an authentic place and they can’t instill any more doubt with their community.
As the market becomes more saturated and hardcore Yogis take a piece of their pie, it's more important than ever they take a good hard look at themselves and remember what made them passionate about this community in the first place.
Lego - Score 27/35 - 77% B+
One of society’s favourite brands. Lego has been around for decades and they've done a great job of continuously listening to their community and adapting to their needs. They’re fantastic with recognizing what people love about them and what needs to be updated. We love that they continue to stay true to the original pieces but adapt their communication to new mediums consistently to ensure they stay relevant.
Lego really established their vision when The Lego Movie came out. Before The Lego Movie, some might argue they had no vision. It was the movie’s script which helped establish their vision for them. Whether it was intentional or not, the vision began to form around the idea that the core essence of Lego is about building and rebuilding, not strict rules and guidelines.
They've always had a strong tribe but how they’ve leveraged their community is where they’ve had the most trouble. A quick search will show the many platforms in which to engage with the Lego community. Too many.
There are multiple apps, a website, and a bunch of social media accounts. A fan wouldn't know where to go to find others that share a similar passion with them. They are scattering their tribe across too many mediums. Plus, there doesn't seem to be any offline communities that are initiated or supported on their mediums where one could visit and further indulge this passion.
A quick glance at Lego’s community and you see the collective love of Lego but still, members feel isolated. Despite the fact that people share their creations online, the engagement is not fulfilling its potential. Looking at their accounts, it's surprising how few tribesmen are engaged, especially given everyone knows a Lego lover.
They also lost points when it came to content. It seems they had lots of content around entertainment, however, they didn't have very much useful content. Their content doesn't necessarily encourage discussion which is the key to building tribesmen. The response from admins could be much faster and engaging. Some of their apps don’t encourage transparency which creates distance between Lego lovers.
Overall, Lego has created a great foundation. There is a lot of opportunity being missed that could increase the number of tribesmen and build stronger conversions. It seems most of the activity in the Lego community is driven by their tribe rather than guided by the brand.
Sephora - Score = 29.5/35= 84% A
Sephora has a very impressive community, it thrives and converts very well. The community Sephora has built scored a very rare A. Not only do they have a strong group of tribesmen, they've created a platform for them and it's directly tied to the checkout counter.
They have a clear passion: makeup. They have strong tribesmen dedicated to their brand. They've created a loyalty program just for them, which allows regular high spenders to spend more easily. Their platform is their website and there is only one place to have dynamic conversations. Their content is consistently useful and entertaining. They’re great at building trust with their community as they allow for various opinions to occur, they respond quickly to customer inquiries, and they openly admit to mistakes and quickly correct them.
The only space for improvement would be their vision. On Sephora’s website, the closest thing to a vision is “teaching and inspiring clients to play in a world of beauty”. If it were more of a destination and was integrated into their product and service, they would have scored higher points. Their lack of vision is affecting their customer experience. While the experience in their stores and the responses provided on their platforms are very helpful and fast, they lack engagement and further purpose.
The vision they create does not have to be misaligned with their bottom line, in fact, it could further add to it. Much like Lululemon, Sephora’s vision could empower their tribe to create their own Sephora initiatives that contribute to this vision. These initiatives can continue to build further trust and more bonding between the brand and members.
These three examples show you how the size of a community does not indicate a healthy community. Brands that perpetually invest and keep a close eye on the needs of their members are the ones that will continuously benefit from these relationships. Investment in your community is long-term and it directly reflects your community's investment in you.
Community marketing is a reflection of our society’s need for meaningful relationship with brands. As audiences become more educated, and as the market becomes more saturated, a brand community is a key thing that will keep your audience loyal. If you want to learn more, it might be valuable to read our community marketing strategy posts
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