October 9, 2020December 7, 2020Planning5 Min ReadHow a Brand Community Supports 365 Engagement & RevenueMike LaFolletteAs an event organizer, it’s time to consider how a brand community can help you continue the online conversation and provide pivotal touchpoints with your key audience throughout the year.You’ve invested some serious time and likely poured blood, sweat, maybe even a few tears, into planning those virtual events. It’s normal to feel a bit deflated once they end. With a brand community, you can harness the momentum you’ve created with virtual, hybrid, or live events and interact with your target audience more consistently, instead of once or twice a year during your annual conference or trade shows. By supplementing those events with an online community platform, you can attract new revenue opportunities via more frequent sponsorship offerings, grow brand loyalty, and gain valuable customer feedback, all in an opt-in setting.Here’s why a brand community may be the solution to achieving your long-term profit and brand loyalty goals, along with some tips on how to construct an online brand community your customers will appreciate.First Things First: What is a Brand Community?Just as you gather with people who share common interests in your personal or professional life, a brand community represents an online group focused on a specific company or product, where like-minded people can interact, network, consume content, learn about new offerings or incentives, and share ideas. You’re likely already part of a community, especially if you’ve ever used social media. Facebook groups provide the perfect example of a vast virtual community platform. From Instant Pot cooking enthusiasts to bearded dragon pet owners, Facebook groups give people with a shared interest a place to meet virtually and interact online. Brand communities aren’t limited to any particular industry; companies as diverse as Lego, Harley Davidson, and H&R Block all host online community platforms for customers looking for tips on building life-size Star Wars figures, preparing a two-wheel trek cross country, or praying they haven’t missed their tax deadline. An online brand community keeps you connected with your brand’s biggest fans, and also provides your company with ample opportunity to promote products, target sponsorships, and grow brand loyalty. Instead of waiting another year for your company’s annual event to reconnect with your audience, building a community around your brand creates consistent touchpoints with people who already like your products or services. Evaluating Community PlatformsCommunity platforms supply companies with a highly effective marketing channel as participants choose to belong. Because they’re opt-in groups, you receive a direct line of communication with your target audience. When creating a brand community, you must first select a community platform, the online location where your virtual community lives. If you’re unsure how to build a community from scratch or want a way to stand out from the gazillion existing Facebook groups, community platform software can help you easily launch a new brand community. That’s particularly true if the event management software your company uses to host virtual events features an online community option. Once your event ends, attendees can opt to continue the online conversation with their newfound network and engage with your brand beyond the virtual event.Just as you use event software to customize virtual events and provide end-to-end user experiences, a dynamic digital community platform gives you the power to create an engaging social community structure that appeals to your specific audience and reflects your branding. Full customization options should include multiple layouts, colors, and icons, and allow companies to add brand logos and copy that align with the brand. Encourage Audience Engagement with a Brand CommunityOnce the brand community goes live, engage users through push notifications, networking opportunities, games, exclusive incentives, and other customized content to keep members coming back for more. You can create specific messaging for different membership levels or subgroups, just as you would craft individualized content for C-Suite executives, sales professionals, marketers, or other specific audiences attending a virtual event.Community gamification taps into people’s competitive instincts, enticing participants to visit sponsor websites, take surveys, complete virtual scavenger hunts, or network with others. Award points or prizes to those who play along, all the while tracking winners on the brand community’s leaderboard. A Brand Community Offers Year-Round Revenue Potential Brand communities provide value to members, but also generate continuous revenue for companies. Active community engagement means your brand and sponsors reach a targeted audience more regularly, and in a more intimate setting than a large-scale virtual event.Some companies charge to join their brand communities, while others offer a free version and members can pay to access various benefits at different price points. When deciding how to set up your own brand community, remember that members opt in so you need to entice them to stay by offering value. Say you’re running a brand community for a fitness company. Community sponsorships could comprise companies selling power bars or other energy supplements, workout clothing, training shoes, or ads for upcoming CrossFit events and marathons — anything that interests or benefits your members.The best community platforms come equipped to provide ongoing, evolving content throughout the year. This includes creative ways to showcase sponsors with customizable layouts, banner ads, and splash screens. To offer sponsors additional value, find a community platform that also allows sponsors to advertise via push notifications, gamification, networking events, and other features to engage with your audience. Make Your Community Fresh, Fun, and EngagingIt’s vitally important you keep the platform updated with fresh content. No one will participate in a stale community without regular engagement, and they certainly won’t continue to pay to be a part of it.Building a community around your brand isn’t a one-time task. To keep audiences returning, encourage engagement throughout the year. Provide regular content updates, networking opportunities, VIP access to new products, and anything else that interests or excites users.Avoid coming off overtly sales-y or letting sponsors dominate the pages, or you’ll risk pushing community members away. Provide genuinely helpful content and allow for authentic dialogue among members.Remember, people join a brand community by choice. They typically become part of a community already a fan of the brand and want what the online group offers (giveaways, discounts, insider knowledge, like-minded conversation) — unless something on the platform convinces them they no longer want to participate.Brand Community Takeaway TipsWe know — all of this online-only engagement presents new challenges as an event organizer. It’s intimidating enough to create a sense of community when meeting customers or stakeholders in person, let alone trying to virtually define brand community. But a flourishing online brand community can prove instrumental in your success and profit margins. Consider your business’ needs and how consistent, ongoing engagement with your audience could help achieve company goals.Community platform software allows you to create and grow your target audience, but ensure the platform you chose offers customizable features.Find a community platform that’s compatible with your virtual event technology and provides functionality you’ll use for years to come.A brand community offers a promising avenue for increasing revenue, but only if you continuously refresh the content. Don’t aim to engage with your audience during a few random visits, but for 365 days a year. A brand community is an opt-in experience — users engage as long as they believe it’s worth their time. Never stop brainstorming new ways to interact with members and what perks you can provide, or they’ll find another virtual hangout with more to offer.Mike LaFolletteWriter @ Red Pen Content. Master Gardener. Dad to an enormous Alaskan Malamute!