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Despite all the hype surrounding the alleged battle between physical and digital, the dichotomy is about as legitimate as Fyre Fest. The reality is that brick-and-mortar activations are still incredibly important (and prevalent) and that brick-and-mortar online sales are still dominating. That’s why it’s so important for online companies to offer offline opportunities for their consumers, building up their communities along the way.
Brands need to be more than just their products or services these days. Building a community around a brand is becoming increasingly popular, be it through branded content or physical activations. One of the best ways to build that community is through personal interaction. Getting face time with your customers through physical activations, attending events or otherwise is key to fostering that sense of community.
For example, our agency is expanding to different locations around the globe this year. In order to help prepare for our arrival and begin fostering a community in new locations like the one we have at home in Los Angeles, we’ve hosted and are continuing to host events outside of LA.
Building a physical community around your online brand may seem like a tall order. But here are four reasons why you, too, should begin to do so:
1. Valuable Information
Your community is populated by people who are at least mildly interested in your brand and at most incredibly invested in your brand. Creating a place for all these like-minded individuals to gather allows them the chance to give you feedback, ideas and valuable information.
This advice can then inform your strategy and make your product or service that much better. To actually create and encourage feedback at our events, we follow up with attendees through direct email and ask how they enjoyed the event. We also send a direct feedback form about the events so that we’re continuously able to incorporate feedback to make our events better. Additionally, we ask for feedback from our sponsors, encouraging them to talk about their takes on the event, what went well and what we can do better.
Building a community gives you valuable insight into the zeitgeist. It helps you keep a pulse on what others are doing — both your consumers and competitors. It can also help you learn about what’s going on in adjacent communities.
2. User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is incredibly powerful, with over 60% of social media users seeking out UGC before making big purchase decisions. UGC content, as well as great PR opportunities, can develop out of building your brand community.
UGC and earned press give your company credibility and validation. Just think about when you see a press release or attendee pictures of a well-attended event. It helps to support your acquisition efforts at various stages of the funnel. So be sure to incorporate various activations within your event to encourage attendees to take and share photos while there.
In my experience, the best success I’ve had with attendees sharing photos of events is when we tell them that we will also reshare the UGC to our massive audience. It’s one of the easiest things to do because most people on social media want to reach as many people as possible.
Despite the rise of digital and many consumers going online to research, shop and review, old-fashioned networking is still vital when it comes to building a community. Networking in person helps build stronger relationships and connections. It can be great for establishing potential partnerships and opening up new marketing opportunities.
Especially in an industry that changes and grows as swiftly as e-commerce, it’s important for individuals to stay involved. This will not only help you build a community but can also keep you on the bleeding edge of your industry.
4. Awareness, Nurture And Trust
You want your community to have an emotional attachment to your brand. Trust is the most crucial piece of a consumer-brand relationship, and it takes a lot of time and interaction to build that up. Building a community as a brand can be challenging. A key component of this is driving growth and outcomes centered around turning handshakes into deals and extending the lifetime value of those deals. This is driven by trust. For us as an agency, our product is people. Our clients rely on our talent and expertise because they trust our brand and team.
People want to humanize a brand and attach a name and face to the company. A lot of times you can see that people have a distrust in a brand because they distrust its leader. Most of this distrust can be created by moments that are perceived as personal, like comments, conduct or behavior that rubs people the wrong way. Sometimes these perceptions are accurate. Other times, they’re simply misunderstandings or misrepresentations. Interacting in person with your community can help alleviate these misunderstandings.
Running events that are focused on brand-building and thought leadership open up opportunities for brands and their people to engage, brainstorm, listen to and collaborate with the members of their community. Especially with advertising becoming more and more costly, these face-to-face interactions are priceless.
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