Last Updated: November 15, 2020

Belonging to a community is more than a luxury – it is a fundamental need. Through the evolution of the social media and community marketing, belonging to a community has gotten easier. Though people generally receive their true community support from their family and friends, companies can also contribute to peoples’ sense of belonging by building communities for their customers.

For example, Nike’s Facebook page is closing in on almost 10 million ‘likes’. This group of Nike loyalists has access to exclusive technical support, motivational quotes, photos and videos, and like-minded athletes (See also User-Generated Marketing). In turn, Nike has access to the thoughts, concerns and preferences of their customer base.

What is Community Marketing?

Community marketing is a strategy that involves forming an engaging brand presence in order to interact with a community of existing customers. This type of marketing occurs in places like enthusiast groups, Facebook groups, online message boards and Twitter accounts. These communities give members a place to make their needs known and give companies the opportunity to respond and make them feel important – which they are. While other areas of marketing, like advertising and public relations, generally focus on adding new customers, community marketing emphasizes the relationship with the customers that a brand already has. According to Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, acquiring a new customer is cost six or seven times more expensive than retaining an existing one. By focusing first on meeting the needs of their current customers, corporations can avoid spending money on advertising to attract new customers.

The Social Media Value

According to Mindjumpers, although almost every large charity and university in America has a Facebook presence, less than 60% of Fortune 500 companies do. However, implementing a community marketing presence, through Facebook or another platform, will lead to:

  • Increased feedback and customer concern identification
  • Better customer-focused product development
  • Reduced communication barriers
  • Optimum positioning for damage control, should it be necessary
  • Enthusiastic word-of-mouth marketing
  • Valuable transparency

By creating and maintaining connections and relationships with current customers via in-person or online communities, everyone involved will benefit. Companies will receive valuable feedback on their products and a handle on their interactive online presence, while customers will feel valued and are more likely to give their loyalty to the company.

For example, Kiehl’s, a high-end, global beauty and body-care company, has been in business since 1851. Over all those years, the brand has never advertised to new customers. Instead, Kiehl’s uses aspects of community marketing – word-of-mouth promotion, active community involvement by every employee, free product trials and a deep concern for customers’ needs – to stay the successful brand they are today.

Community marketing is an especially essential tool in conjunction with social media, as modern consumers expect more than an impersonal, one-sided relationship with the products and services they use. They anticipate a customer service base that is available to answer their questions and respond to their concerns. By implementing an effective community marketing strategy, organizations can give them just that. Community marketing removes the distance between brands and their customers, ensuring a more loyal customer base and a better overall reputation.

There are two types of community marketing: organic and sponsored. Organically, customers will begin interacting with each other without the brand’s help. This means that customers may begin their own brand-oriented message boards, or interact through twitter accounts and other forums. This may take the form of a monthly “John Deere tractor owners’ happy hour” or a public message board created to get advice on Milwaukee tool maintenance. On their own, customers are able to get in touch with each other to ask questions, share feedback, and create their own assumptions about the brand. While this can be encouraging, it can also be concerning – if customers are unhappy with a product, the particular product and brand can suffer at an exponential rate. In light of this fact, it is important that organizations take steps to monitor discussions of their brand to know when a product is not meeting the expectations of the public.

A sponsored community marketing effort, one that is developed by the brand itself, involves creating the correct social media platforms that allow customers to interact not only with each other, but with the brand. By monitoring customer interaction and taking it seriously, responding to questions and concerns, and providing your customer base with valuable first-to-know information, you can create loyal consumers who view your brand as an ally. Both forms of community marketing, when used correctly, will connect existing customers with each other and with the brand, in order to foster an interaction built on loyalty and satisfaction.

Who employs community marketing?

Community marketing is important for companies with products that will require maintenance and updates, and companies with products that can be confusing to consumers. Examples of these are car manufacturers, personal computer companies, pharmaceutical organizations and credit card companies (See also Marketing Computers). However, any and all organizations that value their reputation and seek repeat consumers should employ community marketing. In fact, your customers will likely implement community marketing for you organically regardless, so it is important that your brand has its own community marketing strategy in order to monitor your presence and status.

Famous Community Marketing

Harley-Davidson, the iconic American motorcycle brand, saw the loyalty, passion and camaraderie displayed by Harley enthusiasts and decided to develop it. Over the past few decades, the Harley community has turned into a force to be reckoned with, consisting of the largest motorcycle club in the world, online forums, cafes, travel services, riding gear and more.

Starbucks Coffee, for example, produces a product that is neither prone to requiring updates nor confusing. However, Starbucks does an excellent job of community marketing. They transformed themselves into a high-end, creative brand by listening to their customers needs and launching, a website designed specifically to hear and implement customer ideas.

As demonstrates, good community marketing allows a deep interaction between customers and providers, making it possible to identify customer needs and introduce current customers to new products and services. (See also Consumer-Generated Marketing)

What kinds of customers are effectively marketed to with community marketing?

Customers who enjoy developing a sense of brand loyalty and care about interactive customer service are most affected by community marketing. These customers generally value the opinions of others, and will discuss their purchases with friends, family and coworkers, both face-to-face and via social media. Often, customers who are already very brand-loyal (to Apple technology products or Ford trucks, for example) are excellent advocates for organic community marketing. This essentially makes them non-professional ‘experts’ to whom less involved customers ask questions and advice.

It’s easy to get less-involved customers motivated to be a part of a brand community by offering them exclusive perks and rewards like coupons or free samples (See also Promotional Marketing). In July of 2012, for example, Purina Cat Chow (whose ‘About Us’ information states: There may not be cat parks yet, but there’s finally a place to come together and connect with cat owners like you to celebrate your love for your cats), offered their Facebook community members the chance to win one of 40 $100 Amazon gift cards by sharing an inspiring or special story about their pet.

How is a community marketing plan developed and employed?

Customer communities may form naturally on their own, or it may be up to your company to create the groundwork for a community and draw your customers to it. Regardless, companies are responsible for developing and maintaining the appropriate brand image within each community.

First, a company must decide where to gather their customer community. Depending on the product demographic, different platforms will be appropriate. For example, a community of teenagers or twenty-somethings would be drawn to a Facebook- or Twitter-based community. A group of web programmers may be more willing to participate in a basic coding forum. Elderly consumers without much knowledge of the Internet would be more likely to go to a physical meeting in their town. By choosing the correct place to build a community marketing effort, a brand is more likely to drive participation.(See also Niche Marketing)

Next, it is important to decide what exactly they want their customers to gain from this interaction. Will this community be a place to get special offers, receive troubleshooting advice, share stories with other loyalists, or all of the above? This desire for mutual benefit should be one of the primary goals of a community marketing campaign, and it should all be done in the correct brand voice.

Community marketing campaigns are one of the best ways for a company to develop its brand voice. Because communication within a community is two-sided, the brand has numerous opportunities to interact with customers. Through these interactions, the brand can assess exactly how it is perceived and make adjustments accordingly.

What types of careers work with community marketing strategies?

Because the nature of community marketing in the 21st century is largely digital, a community marketing career requires marketers to not only have a marketing background, but also a firm understanding of the ever changing world of social media and online marketing. Even though the principles of community marketing place a lot of the ‘work’ on the customers, brands still need to employ skilled, passionate marketing professionals to encourage, guide and mediate community activity.

Marketing Managers

What do they do?

Famous Community Marketing

Harley-Davidson, the iconic American motorcycle brand, saw the loyalty, passion and camaraderie displayed by Harley enthusiasts and decided to develop it. Over the past few decades, the Harley community has turned into a force to be reckoned with, consisting of the largest motorcycle club in the world, online forums, cafes, travel services, riding gear and more.

A successful community marketing campaign should be led by a marketing manager with the knowledge and training necessary to manage and effectively strategize campaign activity. Typically, marketing managers oversee all activities within a company’s marketing, advertising and promotional department. They establish brand guidelines and growth strategies, evaluate customer needs, and tweak marketing plans dependent on success.

Education and Skills

Most marketing managers have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related major like communication, advertising or business. Marketing managers generally begin in entry-level marketing positions and work their way up the career ladder.

Social Media Manager

What do they do?

A social media manager either acts as the voice of a brand or coordinates the voices of a variety of brands at larger companies. Day-to-day responsibilities include developing and implementing integrated social media and community marketing strategies, observing style guidelines and monitoring brand reputation via active listening and social intelligence gathering methods.

Education and Skills

A Bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related field is required to become a social media manager. Unlike other management positions however, social media management roles often require social media savvy and a younger perspective rather than years of experience. While social media management is still not an entry-level role, the title can be reached quickly by a passionate employee.

Social Media Coordinators

What do they do?

A Social Media Coordinator organizes and implements the day-to-day tasks of maintaining a social media brand. This position is usually in charge of monitoring customer interactions, staging give-aways and developing the voice of a brand. Social media coordinators need to feel comfortable with the functionality and unpredictability of social media sites, since they don’t always function perfectly and are prone to frequent updates.

Education and Skills

Social media coordinators usually need a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications or a related field, but don’t need any additional experience other than familiarity with the Internet. A social media coordinator position is an excellent way to enter the field of community marketing.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

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  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

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Graduation from a marketing school will provide the perfect foundation for a career in community marketing. Because community marketing is so heavily dependent on keeping customers happy, a specialized school that teaches exactly what consumers want from their brands, what they expect in response to their feedback, and how to deliver both in a sufficient way is a great way to build the knowledge needed to excel in this field.

The best way to pursue a career in community marketing is to earn a marketing degree. Although the industry also involves a lot of communications work, a deep knowledge of the principles of marketing is the primary skill required. Most organizations that hire a community marketing team require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in marketing, along with social media experience. It is important to earn a degree from a marketing school to ensure you have the proper background knowledge upon which to build your career.

To learn more about how a marketing degree can help you build a successful community marketing career, request information from schools offering marketing degrees today.