Using the Power of Connection in Social Communities
Humans are inherently social, and the Covid-19 pandemic has proven that we remain very much so: online connections have grown even as the pandemic separated us individually. Social media platforms such as Reddit, TikTok, YouTube and Twitch have seen the number of social communities rise with increased social engagement and community building. It’s easy to see why engagement of online communities grew by 81% since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The role of digital communities is multifaceted and growing—not just to connect with loved ones or those who share similar interests, but to also gain information and understanding of the world around us. In short, digital communities aren’t just for the bottom of the social media marketing funnel any longer. For today’s virtualized era, they play a significant role in driving purchasing decisions, arguably more than traditional advertising. My colleague Ryan Ford aptly put it this way: “TikTok made me buy it isn’t just a meme; it’s a powerful driver of social proof.” Given the elevated role that communities play in consumers’ lives today, brands must infuse community across their digital marketing strategy—an important tactic behind brand virtualization as brands aim to remain relevant within a new era in digital. Here’s how you can.
Bringing users closer to your brand.
Communities thrive on human-to-human connection. In realizing the power they have to forge deep relationships, savvy brands are tapping into communities’ highly engaged members and the key opinion leaders (KOLs) they admire—an approach to marketing that’s built around driving conversation, not conversion.
Social communities are the new word-of-mouth marketing, where authenticity reigns supreme.
Acting with a sense of purpose is key to supporting—not exploiting—the communities that your audience has carefully built, and this reinforces communities’ power to validate or amplify a brand’s values. For example, OPPO realme’s inspiring and inclusivity-minded campaign exemplified the power of community by featuring local influencers known to defy the status quo in their own communities. A brand film championed the pursuit of their individual and collective truths—a rallying cry that resonated so well that it achieved 1.5 billion topic engagements in just two weeks.
There are many more ways brands can effectively and authentically engage with existing communities—or maybe even launch their own. To know how to best plug into communities, it’s helpful to understand the different kinds that exist.
Personal interest communities.
Platforms focused on user-generated content like Reddit and Discord are examples of personal interest communities. Diverse groups of highly active users meet in these self-governed communities to share their interests and passions. Norms are unique to each one, making it important that brands understand their culture to engage with them authentically.
In some instances, personal interest communities cross social media platform lines, meaning that accounts set up on one social media platform may funnel users to another. For example, an instructor in sports anatomy may post an instructive video on Instagram that tells followers to tune in for a live Q&A session on TikTok. Another example, this time among gaming communities, is overlaying Discord chats on Twitch streams.
Brand-initiated communities are communities built by brands that draw in audiences who align with their core values. Fitness giant Nike has cultivated its lifestyle communities via a range of apps and touch points such as Nike+ and Nike Running Club. These spaces allow Nike to actively engage not just individuals, but also their personal circles, by allowing consumers to share their own fitness and lifestyle goals with like-minded friends within the Nike ecosystem.
LG recently took an approach that blended key aspects of both personal interest and brand-initiated communities. Partnering with Star Wars to promote its OLED TV, LG launched a Discord server focused on the sci-fi franchise in conjunction with its presence at the Star Wars Celebration held at Anaheim Convention Center.
To entice fans to join the new Discord community, LG handed out lenticular cards with a QR code that directly linked visitors to the group. Merging product demonstration with digital activation, an LG TV acted like a photo booth for visitors to take photos from. Animated photos could also be retrieved digitally from the Discord channel.
With consistent engagement and interactions on the Discord channel, LG attracted a passionate and highly engaged community, with more than double the initial expected membership on its Discord channel.
KOL-led communities are centered around key opinion leaders and are ready made for brands to tap into. Much like brand-initiated communities, KOLs attract followers who align with their personal values and enjoy the content they put out. Therefore, brands partnering with KOLs can associate themselves with values of those community and the positive associations that come with them.
Automobile innovator Kia engaged with KOL communities to great effect with their “Movement that inspires” rebranding campaign. Kia created a virtual instrument using high-resolution music samples captured from nature. Partnering with Soundcloud, Kia then launched a music competition with its freely available virtual instrument.
Media.Monks curated a list of prominent music producers known not just for their artistic ability, but also for their past work as advocates for the environment. This fostered genuine synergy between Kia’s rebranding and the music community and demonstrated to audiences how Kia is both sophisticated and conscious of sustainability.
In order to thrive, being genuine is key.
Connected by shared passions and values, audiences in social communities are incredibly engaged. Brands who immerse themselves in these spaces authentically have an opportunity to gain new fans and drive culture in compelling ways.
Staying true to your brand’s values and being consistent in how you show up—despite the fleeting and fickle nature of social media—instills trust. By fueling conversation and supporting audiences, brands can build deeper relationships with consumers and position themselves at the forefront of how people connect today.
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