10 Exceptional Examples Of Brand Communities

An active, engaged brand com­mu­ni­ty can dri­ve inno­va­tion and increase rev­enues and cus­tomer loy­al­ty. The­se 10 brands are lead­ing the way.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 1 comment

For all con­sumer-fac­ing busi­ness­es, a preva­lent, engaged brand com­mu­ni­ty is the ulti­mate asset. Research has shown that brand­ed com­mu­ni­ties not only dri­ve greater reach, but also add val­ue at the oth­er points of the user jour­ney, such as encour­ag­ing con­ver­sions, or improv­ing exist­ing cus­tomer rela­tion­ships. How­ev­er, across many indus­tries, active and engaged brand com­mu­ni­ties remain few and far between. Here are 10 brand com­mu­ni­ties lead­ing the way.


Per­haps the biggest chal­lenge for brands is that build­ing brand com­mu­ni­ties requires a con­sid­er­able invest­ment in time, and com­plete com­mit­ment and inte­gra­tion from depart­ments across a busi­ness to stand a chance.

A HBR study on brand­ed com­mu­ni­ties states that “too often, com­pa­nies iso­late their com­mu­ni­ty-build­ing efforts with­in the mar­ket­ing func­tion. That is a mis­take. For a brand com­mu­ni­ty to yield max­i­mum ben­e­fit, it must be framed as a high-lev­el strat­e­gy sup­port­ing busi­ness­wide goals.”

Last year, we cov­ered two of the most imag­i­na­tive and pop­u­lar brand­ed com­mu­ni­ties, the SAP Com­mu­ni­ty Net­work, and Ran­dom House’s Fig­ment, two com­mu­ni­ties that have cap­tured the hearts and minds of con­sumers by pro­vid­ing a place to share and tips, advice, and sto­ries with like-mind­ed indi­vid­u­als. The com­mu­ni­ties are built on the three prin­ci­ples of feed­back, advo­ca­cy, and sup­port which were iden­ti­fied in a 2012 Comblu report for being the pil­lars for a suc­cess­ful brand com­mu­ni­ty.

SAP in par­tic­u­lar are oper­at­ing at the very fore­front of the indus­try in build­ing a engaged brand com­mu­ni­ty, and it stems from the tech­nol­o­gy company’s orga­ni­za­tion-wide com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing a plat­form for social engage­ment. CMO Jonathan Becher spoke of the com­pa­nies phi­los­o­phy, in which social is seen to ben­e­fit every depart­ment, from sales, to devel­op­ment, sup­port and mar­ket­ing, and in which social inter­ac­tion is viewed as an “enabler” and “not a goal in itself”.

Recent­ly, sev­er­al brands have been step­ping up their efforts to engage con­sumers and build online com­mu­ni­ties. What’s fas­ci­nat­ing about each one is that each is unique­ly dif­fer­ent, offer­ing dif­fer­ent oppor­tu­ni­ties and incen­tives for con­sumers to par­tic­i­pate and engage. Let’s look at 10 brand com­mu­ni­ties lead­ing the way.

10 Exceptional Brand Communities

1. The SAP Community Network (SCN)

With more than 2.5 mil­lion engaged mem­bers, the SCN has been called “the most exten­sive use to date of social media by a cor­po­ra­tion,” by Richard Adler from the Aspen Insti­tute. Com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers range from huge multi­na­tion­als, such as Dis­ney and Bose, to innu­mer­able small and medi­um-sized busi­ness­es, all of which are able to con­nect and mutu­al­ly ben­e­fit via the SCN. The com­mu­ni­ties real suc­cess lies in the fact that many mem­bers are high­ly engaged and will­ing to con­tribute time and exper­tise to grow the strength of the net­work.

Key strength: Huge, diverse, and high­ly engaged com­mu­ni­ty. Users gain rep­u­ta­tion for com­mu­ni­ty con­tri­bu­tions and there are plen­ty of incen­tives for users to con­tin­ue to engage.

2. Playstation Community (Sony)

The Playsta­tion Com­mu­ni­ty has done an excep­tion­al job at pro­vid­ing an online space for gamers to con­nect. Users are able to zone in on their speci­fic inter­ests, whether it be by game, inter­ests, or the type of sup­port they need, and it’s clear to see how the net­work caters for the pil­lars of feed­back, advo­ca­cy, and sup­port.

playstation-community
The com­mu­ni­ty is close­ly tied to Playstation’s linked social media chan­nels, on YouTube and Twit­ter, and users are also able to expe­ri­ence con­tent being gen­er­at­ed both by brands, and users them­selves.

User-gen­er­at­ed con­tent cre­ation is one of the great strengths of the com­mu­ni­ty and with new fea­tures on the PS4 con­sole that enable users to upload in-game clips direct­ly online, this is only going to increase and con­tin­ue to grow the strength of the com­mu­ni­ty.

Key strength: Vir­tu­al­ly unlim­it­ed capa­bil­i­ty and scale in user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent, that both enter­tains and adds val­ue at aware­ness build­ing, and pur­chase-point con­sumer touch­points.

3. Being Girl (Procter and Gamble)

Being Girl was cre­at­ed in 2000 as an infor­ma­tive resource for young, teenage girls, to con­nect and find out answers to the those dif­fi­cult ques­tions that grow­ing up entails. Like a dig­i­tal big sis­ter, the com­mu­ni­ty enables open dis­cus­sion and the abil­i­ty to ask the res­i­dent expert, Anna, for advice on top­ics such as men­stru­a­tion, eat­ing dis­or­ders, acne, and dat­ing.

being-girl

Being Girl has been expand­ed to 46 coun­tries world­wide, and its strength lies in the fact that girls all over the world can relate to each oth­er in the tri­als of grow­ing up. Being Girl was cit­ed in the book “Groundswell“, as requir­ing just a 1 per­cent con­ver­sion rate to offer a 3x ROI built on the brand loy­al­ty that the com­mu­ni­ty inspires.

Key strength: Glob­al reach, and builds brand loy­al­ty among poten­tial cus­tomers for prod­ucts in a com­pet­i­tive niche where loy­al­ty for a brand often lasts a life­time.

4. Figment (Random House)

Fig­ment is a brand­ed com­mu­ni­ty that caters to teenagers who love to read and write fan fic­tion.

figment-branded-community

Fig­ment has more than 300,000 mem­bers who can share, cre­ate, and mod­er­ate con­tent, as well as cre­ate aware­ness by rec­om­mend­ing prod­ucts. High­ly engaged indi­vid­u­als become brand advo­cates giv­ing sin­cere and earnest reviews of the prod­ucts they enjoy, and this ful­fils mul­ti­ple touch­points for oth­er com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. It shows how all con­sumer-fac­ing brands can gen­er­ate brand­ed com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment by focus­ing on speci­fic, high­ly engaged nich­es with­in their audi­ences.

Key strength: Laser focus on a niche seg­ment of brand audi­ence, which ensure rich engage­ment lev­els, and fan­tas­tic mutu­al com­mu­ni­ty expe­ri­ence.

 

5. H&R Block

H&R Block cre­at­ed a com­mu­ni­ty site that con­nects users to a tax pro­fes­sion­al for quick respons­es to tax-relat­ed ques­tions via the “Get Answers” sec­tion of their web­site. The real strength of the por­tal is in con­nect­ing users enabling them to learn and share expe­ri­ences with oth­ers in the H&R Com­mu­ni­ty. The com­mu­ni­ty is report­ed to have answered 1 mil­lion ques­tions and gen­er­at­ed a 15 per­cent lift in busi­ness.

handr-block

Key strength: Adds gen­uine, and high­ly use­ful val­ue to con­sumer lives. Allows user ques­tions to build the com­mu­ni­ty into a com­pre­hen­sive resource.

6. Harley Owners Group (Harley-Davidson)

HOG is a spe­cial com­mu­ni­ty. Harley-David­son enthu­si­asts share more than their loy­al­ty to a brand. For them, it rep­re­sents a way of life, a cul­ture, and it is one that can be found all over the world. Since the 1980s, Harley-David­son have been dili­gent­ly build­ing up a brand com­mu­ni­ty based around shared lifestyle, taste, and ethos. HOG was born as a way the brand’s high­ly pas­sion­ate con­sumers to con­nect and engage online. With more than 1 mil­lion active mem­bers, the strength of the com­mu­ni­ty lies in the open­ness and high­ly impas­sioned mem­bers it tries to fos­ter and serve.

harley-davidson-hog-community

Key strength: Incred­i­bly strong and impas­sioned com­mu­ni­ty, one that extends beyond online com­mu­ni­ties. HOG acts as a con­nec­tor for enthu­si­asts around the world.

7. Lugnet (Lego)

Lugnet is an estab­lished web­site and the largest unof­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ty of Lego fans. Lugnet is main­ly com­posed of adult men, who build elab­o­rate Lego projects, shar­ing news and images of their cre­ations. As a focused and niche group of users, the Lugnet com­mu­ni­ty has even been rec­og­nized by the Lego brand as being a valu­able source of infor­ma­tion. As one Lego spokesman said: “[Lugnet offers] incred­i­bly valu­able insights” in hard­ware, soft­ware, design and usabil­i­ty, feed­back which informs the brands pro­duct devel­op­ment, mar­ket­ing, and much more.

lugnet

Key strength: A high­ly enthu­si­as­tic and capa­ble com­mu­ni­ty that is recep­tive to work­ing close­ly with the brand to provide a source of feed­back which can inform pro­duct and busi­ness deci­sions.

8. My Starbucks Idea (Starbucks)

My Star­bucks Idea works on the same prin­ci­ple as the old cus­tomer “sug­ges­tion box” for the glob­al cof­fee chain’s 150,000+ mem­bers. In the last six years, sug­ges­tions from My Star­bucks Idea com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers has led to the imple­men­ta­tion of near­ly 300 inno­va­tions – from dig­i­tal tip­ping, peach green-tea lemon­ade, to the huge­ly pop­u­lar abil­i­ty to enjoy free Wi-Fi. Alex Wheeler,VP glob­al dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing for Star­bucks, said that “our pas­sion­ate cus­tomers and part­ners have been shar­ing their ideas with us on My Star­bucks Idea, and we have lis­tened and act­ed upon many amaz­ing inno­va­tions that we have received from this online com­mu­ni­ty.”

mystarbucksidea

Key strength: Actu­al imple­men­ta­tion and fol­low through of pop­u­lar ideas shows that the brand lis­tens to con­sumers, which inspire ever greater lev­els of inno­va­tion and ideas. A real asset for the brand’s con­tin­ued pro­gres­sion.

9. Oracle Community (Oracle)

Ora­cle Com­mu­ni­ty con­nects the mil­lions of users world­wide who use the plat­form, whether for per­son­al or for a busi­ness func­tion. It enables users to ask ques­tions on ded­i­cat­ed forums and to solve prob­lems togeth­er. Mem­bers are able to share per­son­al sto­ries, form inde­pen­dent groups, and even build their own net­works and sched­ule meet­ings.

oracle-community

Key strength: A great tech­ni­cal resource, which seeks to aid users in solv­ing prob­lems in any way it can. Very pop­u­lar among its tar­get audi­ence.

10. r/Nordstrom1901 (Nordstrom)

While many brands feel com­fort­able on social media plat­forms such as Twit­ter, or Insta­gram, where they are able to main­tain a lev­el of con­trol of the con­tent on their chan­nels, the major­i­ty seem reluc­tant to open a chan­nel on Red­dit, put off per­haps by the unabridged open­ness of the site, and the raw­ness of user-gen­er­at­ed com­ments. Nord­strom, how­ev­er, felt ready to rise to the chal­lenge, a first for a lux­u­ry brand.

nordstrom1901

The brand val­ues gen­uine authen­tic­i­ty, which gives them the brav­ery to facil­i­tate open con­ver­sa­tion with cus­tomers via red­dit. All ini­tial signs point toward it being a high­ly pos­i­tive move for the brand. “We’ve been on Red­dit for about two months,” said Dan Evans Jr., spokesper­son for Nord­strom, Seat­tle. “We hope it’s anoth­er way for us to respond to and speak with our cus­tomers direct­ly in real-time in a way our cus­tomers will enjoy.”

Key strength: Engag­ing on an open forum such as red­dit requires brands to com­mit to gen­uine authen­tic­i­ty, con­sumer-cen­tric­i­ty, and social val­ues, which ensures sen­ti­ment for the brand will win a high­ly pos­i­tive respon­se. Future-proof, and long-term wins.

Why Should Brands Build A Strong Brand Community?

Each one of the above brand com­mu­ni­ties offer a unique set of virtues that ensure their suc­cess. To vary­ing degrees, each pos­sess­es the three pil­lars of feed­back, advo­ca­cy, and sup­port that have come to define a thriv­ing com­mu­ni­ty.

Lugnet and My Star­bucks Idea offer a unmatch­able resource for brands to gain feed­back on their pro­duct offer­ing and the influ­ence of that feed­back has per­me­at­ed into the cul­ture and iden­ti­ty of the com­pa­ny. Harley-David­son is an out­stand­ing exam­ple of how a brand can win and engen­der advo­ca­cy. H&R Block and Ora­cle Com­mu­ni­ty offer valu­able sup­port resources for con­sumers.

Anoth­er cru­cial ele­ment of all of the­se is that all of the­se net­works offer a unique val­ue propo­si­tion for con­sumers, whether it be the facil­i­ta­tion and shar­ing of infor­ma­tion (SCN, Being Girl, H&R Block, Ora­cle Com­mu­ni­ty), or a plat­form for users to con­nect and share con­tent (Playsta­tion Com­mu­ni­ty, Fig­ment).

Per­haps the most impor­tant take­away, and the one which required the great­est amount of com­mit­ment from an orga­ni­za­tion to deliv­er, is the bold­ness and authen­tic­i­ty that enables brands to oper­ate in a way which doesn’t require cen­sor­ship. It’s a mea­sure of how trans­par­ent a com­pa­ny is pre­pared to be, and some­thing all brands must even­tu­al­ly aspire toward. The rewards for such authen­tic­i­ty as unmatched (hav­ing, for exam­ple, the pow­er to trans­form strug­gling motor­cy­cle brand Harley-David­son in the 1980s into the mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar glob­al brand they are today).

Build­ing such com­mu­ni­ties requires inte­gra­tion and com­mit­ment across depart­ments with­in an orga­ni­za­tion. HBR’s afore­men­tioned study sum­ma­rized:

In today’s tur­bu­lent world, peo­ple are hun­gry for a sense of con­nec­tion; and in lean eco­nom­ic times, every com­pa­ny needs new ways to do more with what it already has. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, although many firms aspire to the cus­tomer loy­al­ty, mar­ket­ing effi­cien­cy, and brand authen­tic­i­ty that strong com­mu­ni­ties deliv­er, few under­stand what it takes to achieve such ben­e­fits. Worse, most sub­scribe to seri­ous mis­con­cep­tions about what brand com­mu­ni­ties are and how they work.”

It means that brand com­mu­ni­ties are not, as they are often per­ceived, a lone mar­ket­ing or cus­tomer sup­port objec­tive, but a busi­ness strat­e­gy that demands authen­tic­i­ty as a pre-req­ui­site. In estab­lish­ing one, a brand can look to grow and evolve with the expec­ta­tions and needs of its most valu­able cus­tomers.

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex’s data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

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1 Comment on "10 Exceptional Examples Of Brand Communities"

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10 seos
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3 months 17 days ago

What a great read! If I can pull all that togeth­er I should be able to get some­where.

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