Community is the most important leveraging point for any brand.? Having a loyal, evangelical, earnest group following one’s brand provides a far-reaching, surrogate sales force working on behalf of the brand – yet as a member of the community.? But to garner such a following, first the brand itself must become an active contributor to the community at large.
Becoming a member of the community, participating proactively from within, and resisting every urge to “sell one’s self” (in the traditional marketing sense) are most important.? And it’s all about relevant content and interaction – and listening.
Listening is not participating.? Listening is reconnaissance and research and should begin on sites such as:
Google Blog Search
It’s important to synthesize not only the information being aggregated, created, and talked about by people on these sites, but also the community of people that inhabit them.? How do people relate to one another?? What is the language? What is acceptable, what is forbidden, and why? Their interactions between one another are paramount and will allow the listener to learn how to interact successfully before entering the contribution stage.
Now, once the brand is confident in their target and prepared to participate as a part of the larger community the brand must contribute as a person, not a marketer, spokesperson, or sales representative.? Talk like a person, and more specifically, from your brand’s point of view.? With each contribution assure that as a participant you are: bringing value to the conversation, creating honest, original content, and are engaging in proactive, helpful conversations.? Throughout this process the brand’s personality and viewpoint will become the synonymous with the brand itself.? With some great conversation, link-backs (others’ links to the brand’s content), and constant activity among the community, the brand will begin to accumulate followers.
A testament to social media community activism and the leveraging of a powerful web presence is Skullcandy.? Relatively small at its birth, Skullcandy (a high-fashion headphone and audio accessory company) has now become an evangelized force among the social media community.? This was, and continues to be, achieved through their active and consistent contributions to the community from downloadable music, custom artwork, peer-to-peer photo and video sharing, embeddable widgets, and virtual street teams to blogs, self-started communities and forums, social networks, virtual and physical events, and customer-centric traditional marketing.? The customer became, and now is, their friend.? And that relationship is at the center of every interaction they initiate.
And so should the community-centric relationship be all brands’ focus.? It’s expected.? And if your brand isn’t delivering, your competition will be.