Are you listening? Are you paying attention?
Two simple questions that every marketing executive should be asked during their leadership meetings or strategic planning sessions heading into 2021. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not talking about listening to the other members of the team (although that’s also important), I’m talking about listening to customers & target audiences.
We live in an interesting time.
As you read these words in this email, the audience you’re trying to reach is likely engaging somewhere online to discuss their job, their pains, their challenges and the various things that make up their day to day. To give this a bit more color; thousands of react developers are currently on GitHub talking about code. Thousands of entrepreneurs are currently on Indie Hackers talking about growth. Thousands of parents are inside Facebook groups talking about organic baby food. And thousands of sports fans are in a forum debating Lebron James vs Michael Jordan.
Conversations are happening amongst the ideal customer that brands are trying to reach that go unnoticed and ignored. The best brands realize that these pre-existing communities can act as a launching pad for their brand to generate more traffic and develop brand advocates.
Last week, I wrote about Adobes Creative Flywheel and how it arms the Adobe brand with a massive competitive edge vs competitors.
The part of the community equation that Adobe gets that most brands don’t is that when a community is empowered to create — that content at scale can deliver a ROI that can’t be replicated by most marketing campaigns.
Let’s dive in…
Let’s say you run an events software company.
You know that event planners around the world are looking for solutions like yours & are currently planning their event strategies for 2021.
A community driven content strategy would start by researching the channels & communities these individuals are spending time on. It could be forums, it could be subreddits, it could be Facebook groups, it could be Slack communities, etc… Either way in this group you’re going to have a handful of contributors. These are people who answer questions, share links to resources, provide support and help keep communities strong. These folks exist in EVERY thriving community online.
As a brand, you want these contributors on your side (the circles with orange squiggles).
Sometimes they already are. This is where social listening & community research comes into play. If you run this events software company; you want to know if anyone in the community that is a contributor has been talking about you. You can find this information through backlink research or qualitative analysis (ie Sherlock Homeboy approach).
The goal here?
Know who your supporters are in the community (orange crowns in my drawing below) and empower them to want to support you more and more. You want them to continue contributing to the communities they’re involved in but you want to make it easy for them to speak confidently about your products new features. You want them to share your resources, videos, blog posts and other documentation when it makes sense.
Influence the observers (and make them advocates too).
Influence the rest of the community who may not be actively creating and posting but are consistently consuming and reading.
- When a thread is trending about strategies for running a successful event, you want your brand advocates to plug your latest post…
- When a newbie asks whether they should try your event software or the competition; you want your advocates to outline exactly why your solution is better…
- When someone announces they’re going to create a podcast for the events industry you want your advocates to suggest your CEO…
You want existing contributors to love you and from that love — you want them to influence the observers so they will fall in love with your brand too.
Look… I don’t want this to feel all fluffy. I know it feels that way.
And I know it can feel less linear (or scaleable) than getting a great backlink and ranking for a high volume keyword or running a PPC campaign that generates great CTC.
I get that.
But the returns here can be massive.
There’s a reason communities like Behance are acquired for $150M. There’s a reason why Stripe acquired Indie Hackers. And there’s a reason why more and more tech companies are hiring people to monitor and listen to conversations happening on GitHub & StackOverflow.
Because communities while difficult to scale are more important than ever before.
So invest in it.
Because while it’s impossible to control the conversation…
Brands can certainly influence them.