Brands, what are your communities?
Community, community. Brands have just that word of mouth when it comes to the people they are trying to communicate with. But by using the same word for everyone, they run the risk of treating everyone the same way, or even of misunderstanding their love rating and the affection that one has for them.
If we take the term community in the strict sense, I would even go so far as to say that some brands have no community, or even that most of them are.
But if you really want to use the word community, here’s what it can mean.
• Committed people
Customers or not, they are particularly active and committed people, sometimes around your brand, sometimes on a subject to which it is linked. This engagement can be positive or negative. If you are in the automobile you may benefit from motorsport fans, in the air travel fans, and in oil you will face the protectors of the environment.
• An audience
People you talk to. Some have an interest in you, some aren’t, some are current or potential clients, some never will, some who are loyal or not at all. You talk to them but they don’t want to interact with you. For them you can be utilitarian, uninteresting, non-existent. You surely want to change things, you may succeed for some but it is so.
They at least have a transactional relationship with you. But they can, there too, be faithful or not or you even like a convenience, a utility mark without any difference with your competitors. It doesn’t mean anything in terms of engagement.
• Brand lovers
This is generally the category that all brands think of when they talk about their community. Bad luck, few brands have real “fans”, real lovers. If you sell Hi-Tech some of you have it, in sports and luxury cars as well, in luxury goods in general as well. But nothing says that they are your customers (current or potential): many brands with great “fan” potential are premium brands that are not necessarily accessible to these fans, which is precisely why they make people dream. On the other hand, if you sell laundry it is necessarily more complicated for you.
The other side of the coin is that the more you are in a sector where “fanitude” is frequent, the more you will also be dealing with the fans of your competitors. True love for a brand often translates into a deep hatred for its competitors. Welcome “trolls” and other “haters”.
• People who “like” or “follow” you
Well, it’s just people who like or follow you. Either they fall into one of the categories above, or it’s just people who followed you or liked your Facebook page to read content, because your community manager is talented, you have invested heavily in media buying. In short, the number of these people does not matter, it is the quality of the commitment that counts. A person has no value because he is a fan on Facebook but because we know how to place him in one of the preceding categories.
• People who have a problem with you
These people often like to forget that they exist or that they can appear out of nowhere in the blink of an eye. To take a past example, you will be hard pressed to have a community if you sell laundry detergent, but you will have to deal with unhappy customers if suspicious products are found in your product. If you are in the airline industry you can have a crowd of customers who don’t give a damn about you who all of a sudden will become the community of those unhappy with the strike …
In short, having one or more communities, audiences, clients is good, but qualifying and treating them well for and for what they are is better.
Bertrand Duperrin is Digital Transformation Practice Leader in Emakina. He was previously Consulting Director at Nextmodernity, a firm in the field of business transformation and management through social business and the use of social technologies.