The need of belonging is not something new. However, with the increasingly isolated world where we are today, how we connect to others have changed. It is not encouraged to meet people face-to-face and we found that online communities are a great way to help foster connections between like minded people.
So, what are these communities? In a nutshell, they are online communities operated by organizations, namely brand communities. LEGO idea and Apple Support Communities are examples of a brand community. We can see that many organisations are already having or planning to have brand communities to address their business challenges.
Creating brand communities can help businesses in various ways:
- Product innovation/ improvement
LEGO ideas is a great example of companies making good use of its brand community to aid product innovation. LEGO provides a platform for people to unleash their creativity and contribute ideas to the companies. Regular activities and contests were hosted to crowdsource ideas and feedback can be collected from members. In this case, brand communities facilitate co-creation and improvement of products at a relatively low cost.
- Customer support
Brand communities like Apple Support Communities and Adobe Support Community can help optimize customer experiences. The community connects customers and enables knowledge sharing between them. Members can raise questions and find answers regarding the products of the companies there. Not only the companies can support customers in resolving issues related to its products, customers being the users of the same product could also help each other.
While it may take a considerable amount of time for customers to get a reply from the customer support team, it is much easier to get replies promptly from other users and search for answers in previous discussions. Customer satisfaction and experience could be greatly improved, and it helps companies to save resources and time.
When I have some issues while using Photoshop, the first place I go would definitely be the Adobe Support Community where I could easily find people who face similar problems and the various solutions proposed by other users which are really helpful.
2. Customer loyalty and retention
Acquiring a new customer can be way more costly than retaining an existing one. Creating a brand community can be a good way for companies to connect and establish long-lasting relationships with customers, so as to boost customer loyalty as well as retention. The success of Harley Davidson, a major motorcycle manufacturer in America can be attributed to its brand community, the Harley Owners Group (HOG). Bringing together owners of Harley Davidson motorcycles through the community, HOG had been recognised as the most loyal customers in the United States
3. Brand image
Airbnb introduced a community for hosts on its platform. Hosts can share their hosting experience and ideas, and learn from one another at the same time. The Airbnb team would also provide updates for hosts in the community. As customers are served by the respective hosts but not Airbnb directly, the service and experience presented by the hosts on its platform could affect its brand image to a certain extent. Enabling knowledge sharing between hosts worldwide can undoubtedly help them to better understand and serve the needs of customers, thus helping Airbnb to build a stronger brand image.
Companies mentioned above and many more are harnessing the power of brand communities and it is definitely worthwhile for companies to consider initiating one if they have not done so. Nonetheless, there are many failed brand communities out there that have become ghost towns. Knowing how to successfully operate your online community is certainly as important as having one.
While some may be doubting whether brand communities actually do much good to its members beyond serving as a tool for businesses to realise their goals, one main advantage that brand communities can potentially bring to customers is a chance to connect with like-minded people. One example is Playstation communities that enable users to find someone with similar interest and to play games with.
People can also be benefited by participating various events in the communities. A friend of mine shared her experience joining Jenius Co. Create, a community hosted by a digital bank Jenius targeting youngsters in Indonesia. A range of activities including online courses and challenges are provided for Jenius users in the community. She joined an online class on financial planning for free, where similar classes elsewhere are probably pricey. She also joined classes on how to manage Jenius Product and how Jenius came up with the features in their App, which is obviously an exclusive experience.
Building the right brand community could benefit both the organisation and members. It is definitely something that organisations should consider to push forward.