5 Simple Ways to Build Your Community, Upgrade Your Content, and Activate Your Tribe of Raving Fans
If you’re a subscription business, community should always be top of mind.
Afterall, community is part of what defines membership-based businesses in the first place. Why else will your customers stick around if not to benefit from all the perks that membership in your community affords?
At SnackNation – the tech-enabled healthy snack delivery service that I co-founded in 2014 – we think about community a little differently, especially from a marketing standpoint. Our goal is not just to build a community, but a tribe of raving fans.
These are your super users, an energized group of loyal fanatics who evangelize your brand on your behalf.
And if that was all they did, it would be enough. But brand fans do something even more valuable: these super-engaged customers provide critical insight into how and why your community provides value in the first place.
Like most things in business, genuine community-building is much easier said than done, and loyal brand fandom does not happen automatically or spontaneously. We’ve experimented a ton and have landed on a handful of strategies that we know work.
Here are five community-powered strategies SnackNation uses to build our tribe of raving fans.
1. Create Customer-Focused Pillar Content
If your goal is to gain content marketing efficiencies while learning about your customer, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better strategy than the “Content Pillar.”
The idea here is to create a long-form, buyer-focused content piece that stands on its own, but that you can also break out into derivative content over time. (For example, a long white paper that then becomes a series of infographics, webinars, videos, blog posts, etc.) The content should be purpose-built for your customers, and answer questions that they are dying to know.
In 2016, it became clear that Office Managers were an important group for us, and that they were an underserved audience when it came to content. So we launched the “State of the Office Manager Report,” which we wrote based on the results of our own comprehensive survey data. The report featured first-of-its-kind analysis about the changing scope of the Office Manager role, and included salary data, career advice, and information on new tools.
The survey is the key to this strategy. Instead of guessing about what mattered to our customers, we simply asked them. The survey results yielded content that resonated with that audience, as well as countless insights that shaped our brand, message, and overall offering.
The State of the Office Manager Report is now an annual affair and a defining feature of our brand for this very important brand audience.
2. Give Your Customers a Space to Connect
This next tip was actually something we discovered during our first Content Pillar tests.
The initial State of the Office Manager report was well received and provided value in expected ways (by driving new revenue, for example). What we didn’t expect was the highly engaged community that sprung up organically on Facebook.
During the survey process, we encouraged respondents to join our exclusive Office Manager Facebook group, and an amazing thing happened almost as soon as they did: they started talking to each other.
The group very quickly became a valuable resource for its members, who frequently used it to crowdsource ideas, pose questions to each other, or just vent. As an organization, we gain additional insight about what matters to our customers, and build up trust and affinity.
3. Gamify Advocacy and Engagement
We launched our SnackNation VIP program to celebrate and reward our most engaged customers. The program is built on Influitive, a platform that gamifies and enhances brand advocacy and engagement.
In addition to serving as a professional network, SnackNation VIP members can complete challenges to earn points for rewards, perks, and other privileges – everything from Uber and Starbucks gift cards and SN merchandise to a Tesla (yes, really).
Our social strategist moderates the group and holds weekly Q&A discussion topics, spotlights member offices, shares new content as soon as it’s published, and encourages VIP members to take their relationship with us to social media.
4. Build Trust and Affinity with a Podcast
It’s 2019, so I think you know what a podcast is by now. Heck, considering that there are upwards of 630,000 active podcasts today, you might even host one yourself.
Podcasts are, of course, a big investment in time and resources. Podcasting is so saturated that the only successful way forward is to produce killer content. That means higher production value, great guests, and a steady publishing cadence.
We launched our first podcast, The Awesome Office Show, in 2015. Initially, we suspected that the ROI would show up via demand gen, but that wasn’t the case.
We learned pretty quickly that for us, podcasting was not a significant lead driver – at least not right away. Part of it has to do with the medium and the way people listen. We experimented with all sorts of offers, promo codes, and opt-ins, but nothing worked.
But that doesn’t mean podcasting isn’t valuable, or that it can’t be foundational to your community building effort.
Ultimately, we saw value in the community that grew around the podcast. Our listeners were highly engaged, and developed strong affinity towards our brand and the show’s host – SnackNation CEO and my fellow co-founder Sean Kelly. Podcasting is also a fantastic way to expand your network. A podcast gives you an excuse to reach out to virtually anyone. We even secured funding with an investor who first heard about us through the Awesome Office Show.
Podcasting is an intimate medium that lends itself to brand affinity. People carry you around in their ears during their commutes, while they exercise, or in the midst of household chores. They choose to spend long periods of time listening to your voice. In the end, this helps create an authentic emotional connection between the listener and your brand that is priceless.
We launched a second, more focused podcast called Brand Builder in 2017 to serve the product side of our marketplace, and we continue to see ROI in the form of brand awareness, thought leadership, and brand affinity.
5. Throw Awesome Events
Virtual communities can approximate human connection, but there’s still no substitute for face-to-face, IRL interaction. There’s just something about being there.
This year we kicked off two signature event series that created brand affinity on both sides of our marketplace.
The first was our first annual Better Every Day 5k and Wellness Festival, a local event that raised money for Feeding America. The event brought together members of the local community, wellness companies and better-for-you snack brands that are helping change our food system.
On the other side of our marketplace, we also launched the Brand Builder Summit, an invite-only event in Southampton, New York that brings together luminaries in the CPG and food-tech space for a weekend of ideas and innovation.
If the maxim is that consumers value experiences over products, then there’s no better way to engage them than by providing real life, positive experiences.
Community building is something that our entire team focuses on relentlessly. It is core to our business. While our yearly and quarterly goals might shift based on the changing needs of our rapidly growing business, our marketing mission remains constant – create a tribe of raving fans by producing world-class content and engagement.
The key for me was the realization that community is both an end and a means. It is both the destination and the way there.
What are some community-based strategies that work well in your marketing efforts? Share them in the comments below.
Written by Andy Mackensen, Co-Founder and CMO, SnackNation
Learn more at https://www.snacknation.com/