How to Build Community Loyalty: 3 Tactics

  |  December 28, 2012   |  Comments

Developing strong community relations is a lot like training for a marathon. Both require consistent workouts over time.

Chances are pretty high that you wouldn't randomly wake up one day with the idea that you could successfully run a marathon without any training whatsoever. Similarly, you wouldn't walk into a gym for the first time expecting to sail through an advanced yoga class. Both scenarios would end up with some pretty serious consequences.

Similarly, a brand's relationship with its community isn't something that you can simply flip on like a light switch. It too requires a consistent "workout" to reach its full potential. Despite what many companies think, brands don't just wake up one day with an army of net promoters or brand advocates as part of their community because they think they deserve them.

In both fitness and business, those who partake in thoughtful (even basic) training may just be surprised at how strong they've become after just a few months. In business, it's important to be disciplined and consistently nurture your relationship with your brand's community. The results can be amazing.

Sure, you will occasionally feel like you're calling into the wilderness, but that is expected from time to time. But it also means that if/when you find yourself in a tough spot where you really need to activate those who are most passionate about your brand, you can more easily flex the brand muscle you've been working so hard to build up.

Consistent community interaction is very much a tortoise-and-the-hare scenario and we all know how that ended. While every workout regimen is different, here are some ideas that can get you started on building your brand muscle and community loyalty:

  • Distribute regular and relevant newsletters
    • These can highlight all types of interesting information including - but not limited to - news related to the brand promise.
    • Timing and consistency are important, but if you overcommunicate, that can be the quickest route to your brand's place in the user's spam folder.
    • Figure out a comfortable rhythm and tweak it based on feedback for the best results.
  • Develop thought-provoking surveys
    • Take a census of your community at a regular interval each year and ensure it covers topics that they will find personally interesting or useful.
    • Disclosure is a big part of people feeling involved in a community, and surveys are an excellent way for folks to share information about themselves and what they care about.
    • Share the results so that the members who took part in the process have something tangible to go back to investigate.
  • Engage in personalized contact
    • Never underestimate the power of connecting with someone (by name - both their name and yours) from your community. Checking in, and asking them how they are enjoying your brand and if they understand your brand promise and commitment.
    • In the age of social media, you can get a lot more bang for your buck from reaching out to just one fan personally than you can with non-personal, group outreach.
    • For instance, did someone reference your brand on Twitter? That is the perfect chance for you to approach them via direct message and simply with a retweet. It is a very easy entry to ongoing conversation and it only takes a moment.

Bottom line: by working out your brand's muscles, they will remain fit and limber. And when you need to use them the most, they will be there to serve you well. Building brand and community trust takes discipline, but like everything good in life, it takes commitment and consistency.

This column was originally published on Oct. 31, 2011 on ClickZ.

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Laney Whitcanack

Laney Whitcanack is Federated Media Publishing's chief community officer. Prior to joining FM, Laney co-founded BigTent in 2006 and focused on innovating online and offline ways to connect people with communities they care about. She spent the decade previous to BigTent coaching and training hundreds of community leaders, in the U.S. and Mexico, most recently as the director of community programs for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership.

A published author and speaker on entrepreneurship and community organizing, Laney received the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2008. She is currently a board member of Zeum: San Francisco's Children's Museum and The Princess Project and is involved in even more community groups after the birth of her daughter, Campbell, last year. Laney has a B.A. from UCLA, and MBA from the Simmons School of Management, and an Ed.M from Harvard University.

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