Since 2004, social media usage has grown exponentially as people turn to it for a plethora of reasons. Right now, there are approximately 3.8 billion users worldwide — and still growing (Source: We Are Social). Not only do they provide a platform for us to retrieve our news and information, but they also offer endless possibilities of ways we can interact with our loved ones.

But that’s not all. Social media has fundamentally changed the way brands can interact with their customers. Instead of utilising social media networks solely as marketing platforms to advertise their products, brands can now use social media to facilitate a two-way communication with their customers, allowing them to improve customer experience and build a solid fan base. In fact, having a strong social community is crucial for brands to create meaningful connections with current and prospective customers, which could potentially help to set you apart from the crowd and boost your brand both online and offline.

What is a social media community?

As author David Alston once said, “social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.”

Social media communities consist of individuals from all walks of life unified by common interests, opinions and goals, who gather together on social media platforms (Source: Khoros). The problem is that building an engaged social media community can be quite tricky. Social media engagement refers to the measurement of how effectively a company is creating interactions with its customers in the social media realm (Source: Kim Garst). It can be determined by a variety of metrics that include, but are not exhaustive to, the following:

  • Comments
  • Likes
  • Followers and audience growth
  • Click-throughs
  • Using branded hashtags
  • Participating in live discussions
  • Mentions

While it is understandable that you would want to rack up your followers, social media engagement goes beyond just follower count. The greatest measure of social media success is an engaged audience, not just a big one. Rather than just trying to gain a large quantity of followers, it is better to grow quality followers — an engaged and profitable following that would actually spend money on your products and services.

Why is it important to build an engaged social community?

Regardless of your platform of choice, online communities provide an excellent opportunity to facilitate purposeful and worthwhile connections with your audience. The ability to relate and communicate directly with your audience increases loyalty and generates word-of-mouth – building an online tribe that helps your audience stay connected and remain keen in your brand or product.

  • Engaged Communities Build Credibility

Bearing in mind that customers will never use products or services from brands that they do not trust, encouraging customers to engage with your brand can help build that trust. As your customers like, comment, tag, and leave positive reviews about your brand, this serves as strong social proof for other potential customers, and increases the brand’s credibility. It signals to them that your posts are interesting, entertaining or educational and that you’re worth following and interacting with. This makes it more likely for them to trust you, follow you, and ultimately use your products and services.

  • Engaged Communities Foster Retention & Loyalty

Customers follow and interact with brands they enjoy. But what’s interesting is that 53 per cent of customers who follow brands, actually tend to be brand loyal to them as well (Source: Convince and Convert). This is where engagement and interaction comes into play — it’s a virtuous cycle. When you build an engaged community, you are likely to attract more followers who will in turn feel a sense of connection to the brand and its community, turning them into loyal and engaged customers, and the cycle repeats.

Source: Starbucks

When it comes to social media presence, Starbucks needs no introduction – the popular coffee chain dominates various social media platforms, constantly generating a ton of engagements per post. It would be an understatement to say that Starbucks is killing it on social media. Take a quick look at the coffee giant’s Facebook page, and you’ll notice that the brand has over 18.2 million followers (Source: Instagram). Besides having a feed full of colourful and photogenic visuals, Starbucks also features a variety of User-Generated Content (UGCs) that gains a lot of buzz from its consumers. The staggering numbers on its social media pages speak for themselves. Starbucks has undeniably established itself as one of the most – if not, the most engaged brand communities on social media.

Building an engaged social community is more art than science. There is no single algorithm that’ll lead you to success, but there are plenty of tactics to try. If you’re looking to create an engaged network of followers that will support your brand, here are some tips that you can take note of:

How to build an engaged social community?

     1. Find your advocates

Who are your fans? It is important to find advocates for your brand and recruit the right kind of people for your social community. Some fans will stand out: They are the ones who go above and beyond to interact with your brand authentically, spread your marketing message, and increase your brand awareness – for free. They are users who are such big fans of your brand that they take the initiative to like, comment and share your posts regularly. Reach out, reply, and let them know that they are valued members of your community. You can also use social listening tools to identify those with social currency and are talking about your brand (social currency refers to the influence that a consumer has among his or her peers) (Source: Market Business News). Think about the last time you had a great meal. Did you tell your friends about it or snap a picture of it for the gram? According to statistics by invesp, organic word-of-mouth marketing impressions result in five times more sales than a paid media impression and people are 90 per cent more likely to trust and buy from a brand recommended by a friend. If you want to build a more engaged social community, then you’ve got to attract the right kind of customers. Find your advocates.

     2. Offer value to fans

In this age where bots, automation, and machine learning are prevalent, it can be easy to lose the human touch in your marketing. If you want to build a proper social media community, you need to offer your audience compelling content that they will actually want to see. You have got to give them a reason to engage with your brand. Gone are the days where brands churn out endless promotional content for their social media feeds. Based on research by Hubspot, 45 per cent of over 900 social media users said that they would unfollow a brand on social media if they notice too much promotional content on its feed (Source: Hubspot). When you’re creating content for your social media, always put your customers first and your brand second. Instead of creating content that solely promotes your brand, you should create content that would provide value to your audience. This could include creating bite-sized informational/educational content, which is what Buzzfeed does on their Instagram page regularly. In fact, its content is not just educational, but also entertaining and easy to replicate.

Source: BuzzFeed

Engagement is a two-way street. It means starting conversations, sharing insights, inviting opinions and getting involved in the discussions that follow. If your customers have valid feedback, don’t just ignore or acknowledge them, implement them where possible and let them know you’ve done so! It’s that personal human touch that builds good relationships and makes your audience feel valued and connected to your brand and its community.

     3. Give fans a voice

We know that User-Generated Content (UGC) is gold. Giving community members a chance to share their experiences and opinions can make them feel valued and part of the brand. This helps to foster a sense of community while allowing customers to contribute their insights and add value to your brand. By directly soliciting their participation, it helps customers understand that you’re interested in what they have to offer too. The next time you’re planning for your social media content strategy, give UGCs a try as it can be an effective way to build your community and grow your audience.

Lush Cosmetics is an exemplary brand that uses UGCs to transform their customers into an engaged community of brand advocates. The brand encourages their followers to use the #LushLife hashtag on their posts whenever they post about the brand, and it has amassed an approximate 698k #lushlife posts in total (Source: Instagram).

Source: Lush Cosmetics

By acknowledging and encouraging customers to organically create content about the brand, Lush Cosmetics fosters an engaged community of loyal, organic influencers that they can rely on for impactful content to feed the brand’s channels. Just like Lush, your brand can also start sharing content created by your customers to build a brand presence that reflects the interests, values and even faces of your customer base.

Social media is today’s means of communication — it’s inescapable, it’s powerful, and it’s definitely here to stay. Leveraging on social media platforms can be an excellent opportunity for you to build a strong social media community. The key to building a successful social media community lies in the relationships you cultivate with your audience. By offering the right kind of value and content, you can turn your social media platforms into places where your customers can gather to share their unique brand experiences – which can lead to stronger connections and greater engagement for your brand. If you’re ready to build an engaged social community, drop us a message and we’ll be more than happy to help!


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Hero image: Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash