Cultivating Brand Advocates – Four Remarkable Communities

Perhaps the pinnacle achievement in marketing today is to build such a strong relationship with your brand’s biggest fans, that they become true advocates – speaking so enthusiastically and positively about your brand, that others might think they actually work for you.

It is, indeed, a rare accomplishment to develop such a relationship. In part I believe that many companies do not recognize the opportunities and benefits associated with nurturing and enabling fans to become true advocates. Nor do they fully realize the path they must embark on.

Serving as a guiding light, here are five brands that have done it right:

Fiskars

Hands up anyone who would’ve thought that Fiskars, a scissors brand, would be able to develop a successful online community? They make scissors! Scissors! But guess what? They recognized a core and common passion that many of their fans have – scrapbooking – and they built a community around it. In fact, the thriving community has evolved to include a variety of different artistic categories. See www.fiskateers.com.

The lesson: A successful community doesn’t need to be centred around your brand. Find a common passion your fans have, related to your brand, and build a community that truly unites your fans provides them with value.

Intuit

Intuit is an award-winning developer of business and financial management software, having developed a variety of leading products including TurboTax, online income tax software, as well as QuickBooks, accounting software for small business. The company truly has excelled in developing a customer-centric approach to their business. For example, when using TurboTax, people have access to an entire community of other TurboTax users – to ask questions and gain insights as they fill out their tax returns. Moreover, people can also enter into a private chat with income tax professionals, before they have even paid for TurboTax!

The lesson: Brands should do what they can to pay it forward. Provide value to people before they have even paid for your product or service, and imagine the loyalty, enthusiasm and sense of community that can be be generated.

Genius Crowds

Here is a company and a community with a big twist. The community creates the company’s products, and in essence, the community is the brand. Genius Crowds is a community through which people can submit their ideas for products they’d actually like to see manufactured and sold on store shelves. The community collaborates on product ideas submitted, in an effort to help improve them, and then they vote on their favourites. Genius Crowds then reviews top voted ideas, and selects a few that have the potential – based on a manufacturing and marketability assessment – to be sold in stores.

This is a great example of crowdsourcing. In fact the first product, the Speed Bather (a dog squeegee) is now ready to hit store shelves!

The lesson:  Companies can benefit from letting their customers collaborate and participate in the development, and evolution, of their products and services. By tapping into the collective intelligence of their customers, they create opportunities for innovation.

Disclosure: I was a Community Manager for Genius Crowds when I worked at Chaordix.

Vancouver Canucks

Sports franchise brands and social media go hand-in-hand, as social media provides an amazing opportunity for fans to bond with their favorite team – regardless of where they are in the world. Canucks fans have turned to social media to share their experiences and emotions, expressing themselves through compelling content ranging from short tweets to engaging videos. At the same time, the organization itself has really excelled at leveraging social media to encourage fan participation and build loyalty – and there is little doubt that the strength of the Vancouver Canucks brand has been significantly augmented as a result.

The lesson: Be open to having your fans generate content, and help them share it on social platforms. Doing so will result in increased loyalty, and will aid in building your fan base.

Are you aware of any remarkable online communities that have helped a company cultivate true brand advocates?  Does your company have one, or have you considered developing one?

More Community Management Best Practices

Following up on my recent post on community management best practices, I thought I would share some additional tips and advice – based on my own personal experiences.

Building an online community for your company and brand isn’t rocket science. That being said, there are some simple steps you can take that will facilitate growth and foster engagement with your burgeoning band of advocates (otherwise known as community members).

The five key points from my previous post:

  1. Participate where the conversations are happening
  2. Be timely with your responses
  3. Focus on being people-centric, not company-centric
  4. Be careful what you say
  5. Don’t ignore negative comments

Five more I’d like to add:

1. Give new members a warm welcome

It’s important to make new people feel welcome in your community, to set the stage for engagement – particularly when a community is young and growing. If possible, take the time to send a personalized welcome message to new members. Imagine how a new member will feel, receiving a message from a community host or moderator that is uniquely customized and tailored.

If you see a new member contributing to the first time, give that person some recognition. Thank them for their contribution, and try to elicit further discussion or comments if possible – perhaps that member has more to say. Showing a little gratitude will go a long way!

2. Study your community

Yes, study your community! Do your homework! Learn the make-up of your of your community – read member profiles and gain a better sense of just who has joined, and the different types of interests your members have. The more knowledge you have, the better you’ll be able to interact and converse with your community.

3. Monitor community activity and health

Be sure to stay tuned in to your community, from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective. Track key data that is most relevant, whether related to new member joins, commenting activity, voting activity or another metric that you value, and develop reports as deemed appropriate. Keep an eye out for trends! If your community had higher or lower levels of participation that expected during a specific period, dig in and find out why.

4. Communicate with your members

It’s important to keep members appraised of activity in the community. A regular email, if you’re hosting the community on an internal platform, can go a long way.  If you’re using Facebook, Twitter or another network, make use of status updates. Just don’t overdo it, however – you’ll need to find the communication mix that is right for your brand.

5. Keep members engaged

Provide community members with incentives for contributing. At Genius Crowds, a product innovation community I used to moderate, we provided community member with gift cards related to different types of community activity – such as posting product ideas, commenting and voting. There’s plenty more you can do. For example, if a new hot topic is posted in the community, send a personal email to members who might be interested, to let them know (this is where your homework on knowing member interests will come in handy!).

Crowdsourcing for Small Business and Start-Ups

The following is a blog post that I originally wrote for www.365daysofstartups.com

 

Crowdsourcing is a practice through which organizations can tap into the collective intelligence and skills of their crowds – employees, customers, or the public –  for product or service innovation, problem solving and performing specific tasks and achieving specific goals, leveraging online communities. Crowdsourcing is becoming widespread as companies, both large and small, non-profits and government become more familiar with the practice and how it can enhance their own internal resources and knowledge base.

How does crowdsourcing work?  First, it should always start with a sound business strategy and objectives. Typically, an organization either recruits its own online community of participants (the crowd), or gains access to a community that already exists. The organization then invites the crowd to contribute ideas and solutions related to the tasks it needs accomplished. The crowd is encouraged to collaborate and provide constructive comments on ideas that are posted, and vote on their favorites – enabling crowd-preferred ideas to be identified for the organization. Often times, incentives and rewards are provided to the crowd to entice participation.

Large corporations, such as Dell, Starbucks and Pepsi have been using crowdsourcing for a number of years, however it is now entering a place of maturity – related companies and services geared towards small business and start-ups are arising. Although small businesses may not have the following required to recruit their own crowds, they now have access to a wide range of opportunities to leverage crowds created by crowdsourcing service providers.

Efforts that a small business might consider crowdsourcing include:

  • Graphic and logo design
  • Product innovation and development
  • Marketing and communications
  • Computer programming

Small businesses and start-ups can benefit from crowdsourcing in several ways. Crowdsourcing enables companies to gain access to a large talent pool and resources that complement and build on their own internal expertise.  For time-starved business owners and entrepreneurs, crowdsourcing can help ease the burden of a heavy workload. Also, depending on the task at hand, crowdsourcing can be a very cost-effective solution.

Despite the name, a “crowd” doesn’t have to be that large.  Crowdsourcing projects can result in excellent output with as little as a few hundred participants, so small businesses and startups shouldn’t be turned away from considering crowdsourcing for fear of having to recruit thousands of participants.

For an example of crowdsourcing in action, check out Genius Crowds – www.geniuscrowds.com.  Genius Crowds is a new crowdsourcing initiative through which participants have an opportunity to submit ideas for new products, as well as vote or comment on ideas that others have submitted. Ideas that turn out to be Genius Products, as selected by the crowd and reviewed by a panel of experts, could actually be brought to market  – with the participants who submitted the ideas earning royalties.  Not only that, but their logo happens to be crowdsourced too!

Lots of Genius Ideas!

As you can see, I haven’t had an opportunity to update my blog since early September. I intend to rectify that, and will be more active with my blog again soon.  Lots has happened over the last couple of months. Most notably, I moved from Vancouver to Calgary for a new job.

I am now a Community Outreach Manager for Chaordix, a leading crowdsourcing platform and services provider.  Amongst other things, in my role I am responsible for recruiting for and moderating crowdsourcing communities for our clients.  One such client is Genius Crowds, a fantastic initiative through which participants have an opportunity to help create products that actually make it to store shelves – and earn  royalties!

You can actually participate too! Here is a short one minute video on Genius Crowds that I wanted to share: