Please find examples of brands with a large proud owners community, and how they engage with them (officially and unofficially)

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Please find examples of brands with a large proud owners community, and how they engage with them (officially and unofficially)

Hello! It is my pleasure to respond to your query in providing examples of brands with large, proud owners’ communities with included discussion on how those brands engage with their communities.

We’ll begin with an overview of what branded communities are and how brands are using them to increase customer loyalty. Then, we’ll discuss some statistics that are important for any brand creating a community to keep in mind. Additionally, we’ll discuss how brands interact with their community members – and why those interactions are important in building a successful community. Lastly, I’ve listed 10 brands who have created superior branded communities – and why they are so successful. But first, let’s look at three (3) insights on this research.

INSIGHT #1: Brand communities, or specific forums or groups focused on a specific brand – and hosted by that brand – have become more and more popular as successful marketing techniques, and now one of the main ways that successful brands interact with their consumer base.

INSIGHT #2: To make their branded communities most successful, brands interact with their fans in some of the following ways: Authentic and personal social interaction, keeping their fans as the center of their community’s focus, keeping their ears to their fan base, respecting the differences in communities and community members, meeting consumers’ needs, embracing conflicts, and releasing the need for tight control over what happens within their communities.

INSIGHT #3: Brands with superior brand-based communities include: Sap Community Network (Software), Sony’s Playstation Community (Gaming), P&G’s Being Girl (Female Support), Random House’s Figment (Ya Fan Fic Writers), H&R Block Tax Pro Support Community (Taxes), Harley Davidson’s Harley Owners Group (Motorcycles), Lego’s Lugnet (Toys), Starbucks’ My Starbucks Idea (Food/Beverages), Oracle Community (Software), and R/Nordstrom1901 (Clothing Retailer).


BRANDED COMMUNITIES: OVERVIEW
Brand communities, or specific forums or groups focused on a specific brand – and hosted by that brand – have become more and more popular as successful marketing techniques, and now one of the main ways that successful brands interact with their consumer base. According to EContent and Sean O’Neal (Adaptly’s President), “The new breed of audience platform is creating unique experiences where both brands and consumers have an opportunity to invent, create, and connect."

Brand communities are not just random gatherings of online content interactors, but rather a group of people who have come together for a specific purpose – to support and interact with a brand they appreciate, admire, and with whom they feel a connection. According to EContent, “Communities give people a feeling of belonging, which people crave –making them feel connected to other people across the globe who not only share common interests, but have similar behaviors, perceptions and values.” Further, communities allow for increased peer-to-peer engagement around their shared interest in the brand. In the same EContent article, Apu Gupta (Curalate’s CEO) said this: "By embracing the content that consumers create, marketers are not only putting their communities at the center of their efforts, they're driving an entirely authentic form of engagement”.

BrandFire’s CEO, Adam Padilla, in an EContent article, describes brand communities as useful to consumers for two (2) reasons:
• They provide an outlet for sharing stories about products/services offered by the brand.
• They provide peer-to-peer support and tips/tricks about the products/services – which makes it easier on the brand’s support teams.

From the brand’s perspective, these communities help them develop deeper relationships with their consumers and site visitors, plus allow them to collect an abundance of data about those individuals (since the interactions are mostly conducted on the brand’s website), which they can use to more specifically focus their future content offerings.

Next, we’ll look at some important statistics about the importance of building a branded community.


IMPORTANT BRANDED COMMUNITY STATS
A great article by Crezeo offered 10 statistics about community brands that “every marketer should know”. These are directly quoted for you below.
• “86% of Fortune 500 companies report communities provide insight into customer needs”
• “96% of companies see the value that customer collaboration presents for the marketing department”
• “66% of companies say they turn to brand communities for product development”
• “71% of companies use collaborations for market research”
• “64% of companies state the brand community has improved their decision-making”
• “36% of companies report using fewer surveys for marketing research and development”
• 33% of companies report that branded communities alone have changed marketing plans and products”
• “80% of marketers indicate that building brand communities has increased traffic”
• “53% of Americans who are part of a social brand community are more loyal to the brand”
• “80% of consumers say that authenticity of content will influence them to follow a brand”

Next, we’ll look at how brands are interacting with their community members successfully.


SUCCESSFUL BRAND – COMMUNITY INTERACTION
To develop a successful community, brands need to ensure a few things are happening within that community. By taking these actions, brands are interacting successfully with their consumer base – and getting the most out of their communities. We’ll explore what these interaction-techniques are in more detail below.

MORE AUTHENTIC & PERSONAL SOCIAL INTERACTION: According to the CEO of Spot.IM and EContent, the need for brands to be authentic and more personal has driven toward more social interaction components within brand communities – and in brand marketing campaigns. He states, “This benefits both the brand and the community because it enables a more meaningful conversation online, improving the experience to increase page views, drive user-generated content, and enhance engagement.” BusinessNewsDaily adds that, “Overly promotional social media content and posts come across as disruptive and inauthentic, causing a massive drop in 'likes' and followers.” Instead, branded communities allow companies to share content with consumers – which also allows those consumers to interact back with that content/brand – in creating a more authentic/personal feel for those consumers. When a brand responds to consumers’ posts and comments, those consumers’ engagement will increase – as will the likelihood that they share those connections with others (which, in turn, increases brand awareness). According to Shannon Good in Digital Doughnut, “Taking the time to communicate in a personalized format gives customers the opportunity to think of your brand as a friend or peer, rather than a product. And that kind of brand is the one that gets mentions, recommendations, and positive reviews in public places.”

FANS AT THE CENTER: HBR notes, “A brand community exists to serve the people in it”. BusinessNewsDaily discusses the importance of brands putting their user-generated content at the forefront – making the fans “the stars” of the community. Regramming, reblogging, retweeting, and reposting are better ways than just traditional “likes” for brands to successfully engage with their fans. Communities holding fan contests (like for pictures posted by fans interacting with that brand – like wearing their shoes or driving their motorcycle, as an example) – encourage even more interaction by consumers and drive brand engagement through the roof. These types of communities and contests allow fans to share pictures and posts that have meaning to them – and when a brand reposts their content – it shows them that they have meaning to the brand, too.

EARS TO THE FAN-BASE: Brands can collect significantly-useful data on what appeals most to their consumer base – and can use this to provide content that will get high levels of interactions from those consumers. Additionally, when a brand “listens back” to consumers – and takes their feedback into consideration on future content – those fans keep coming back for more. BusinessNewsDaily recommends, “When your community speaks up, follow through by implementing new campaigns, contests and other initiatives based on what fans have requested.”

RESPECT THE DIFFERENCES: Since different communities in different areas (like countries, as examples) will interact with a brand’s content in different ways, a brand should seek to understand the differences in those markets – and focus their content and interactions on what suits those markets best. The best brands develop different types of relationships with their differing types of communities – based on what best serves those particular communities’ fan-bases.

MEET CONSUMERS’ NEEDS: According to Digital Doughnut, “A community-based brand builds loyalty not by driving sales transactions but by helping people meet their needs.” Successful brands build communities where not only brand-to-consumer interactions takes place, but also peer-to-peer interaction takes place, as well as brand-to-consumer. Each of these relationships – put together – fulfill consumers’ needs. The article goes on to say, “A successful brand community will feature all three of these relationships, and structuring your community to enable these interactions should be a key part of your engagement strategy.” Additionally, offering community members a rewards system, like with gamification badges, as an example, is a great strategy for brands to provide interaction via the system.

EMBRACE THE CONFLICTS: While too many people believe that avoiding conflict in communities is what brands should strive for, experts disagree. According to HBR, “communities are inherently political, and conflict is the norm”. They go on to say that, “Community is all about rivalries and lines drawn in the sand”. This is especially true for both the direct competitors to the brand (fanning the flames of competition among brands in communities is common), as well as for peer-to-peer interactions (competition-style). This should be handled with extreme care, however, as these interactions might “go wrong” and cause problems for both the brand and the loyalty / good karma within the community.

RELEASE THE NEED FOR CONTROL: According to HBR, “Effective brand stewards participate as community co-creators—nurturing and facilitating communities by creating the conditions in which they can thrive.” This is contrary to what some brands believe/practice – the more control, the better for the brand. However, experts agree that communities are NOT within a brand’s scope of control – as they are generally “mostly controlled” by the community members. When brands try to seize control, they lose loyal followers who feel like their voices no longer matter.

Next, we’ll get into 10 examples of exceptional branded communities – with specific insights into the interactions between the brands and their communities.


TEN SUCCESSFUL BRANDED COMMUNITIES
The following are brand communities that have seen excellent success in the marketplace – at engaging their customers and increasing their brand awareness, recognition, and loyalty.

SAP COMMUNITY NETWORK (SOFTWARE)
This community boasts more than 2.5 million engaged members, including huge multinational companies and myriad medium and small businesses. According to Linkdex, “The community’s real success lies in the fact that many members are highly engaged and willing to contribute time and expertise to grow the strength of the network.” The community offers incentives for users toward continual engagement, and users are able to gain status/recognition for community contributions.

SONY’S PLAYSTATION COMMUNITY (GAMING)
Closely tied to Playstation’s social media channels on Twitter and Youtube, experts say this community has been very successful in providing a gamer-connection space. According to Linkdex, “Users are able to zone in on their specific interests, whether it be by game, interests, or the type of support they need, and it’s clear to see how the network caters for the pillars of feedback, advocacy, and support.” The content generated/posted by users is the site’s greatest strength, and with the connected PS4 console, users can quickly upload in-game clips to share with the community.

P&G’S BEING GIRL (FEMALE SUPPORT)
Featured in 46 countries, this community aims to be every teenage girl’s “digital big sister” and features open discussions about topics important to this age/gender group, like acne, dating, eating disorders, and menstruation. The greatest strength of the community lies in the fact that all girls experience the same types of issues – and in connecting with those worldwide, can see that they are not alone in their struggles. This site aims to build brand loyalty that will last a lifetime.

RANDOM HOUSE’S FIGMENT (YA FAN FIC WRITERS)
With more than 300,000 teenagers who write fan fiction, this community features highly-engaged individuals who offer genuine reviews of the products they enjoy. The site’s singular focus on this niche segment of the population – and in giving them rich engagement opportunities – has secured its brand loyalty.

H&R BLOCK TAX PRO SUPPORT COMMUNITY (TAXES)
H&R Block’s community has answered more than one (1) million member-generated questions, and has generated a 15% increase in the company’s business. Their community serves tax professionals in providing quick answers to all their tax-related questions – and enables them to share experiences with each other for assistance and support. This site’s main strength is that their content adds true and useful value to the group it serves.

HARLEY DAVIDSON’S (HOG) HARLEY OWNERS GROUP (MOTORCYCLES)
This community boasts more than one (1) million active members – all of whom are passionate about their bikes and biking experiences, and who are rabidly loyal to the brand. This site connects Harley enthusiasts all over the world – and allows them to share insights into their own Harley-driven lives (pardon the pun).

LEGO’S LUGNET (TOYS)
This niche community includes mostly adult male members – and features those who build expansive and elaborate Lego projects – allowing them to share their creations with the community. These highly-engaged members provide insights and feedback for the company to use to inform their business strategies in product development and marketing, and the community is recognized by the company for this valuable information.

STARBUCKS’ MY STARBUCKS IDEA (FOOD/BEVERAGES)
This giant online “suggestion box” community offers its 150,000+ members a chance to contribute ideas to the company for institution into their business strategies. In just the last half-decade, community members have created almost 300 innovations adopted by the company. According to their VP of Global Digital Marketing and Linkdex, “our passionate customers and partners have been sharing their ideas with us on My Starbucks Idea, and we have listened and acted upon many amazing innovations that we have received from this online community.” The fact that the company clearly shows its implementation of community members’ ideas adds to their fans’ loyalty – and keeps them on the innovative forefront of the market.

ORACLE COMMUNITY (SOFTWARE)
This community connects Oracle users all over the world (millions) who are using the platform for business/personal functions. Community members share their usage-stories with other members, and can also form their own groups/networks – and schedule meetings with each other. It’s a great technical resource that helps users solve platform issues – and is widely popular with its members.

R/NORDSTROM1901 (CLOTHING RETAILER)
The first luxury brand to feel comfortable safely entering and navigating the raw social media channel Reddit, this has produced great results for the company. Community members see the brand’s use of this channel as genuinely authentic – and allows for completely open conversation from brand-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer. The brand hasn’t been on Reddit for very long but, according to Linkdex, “All initial signs point toward it being a highly positive move for the brand.”

Each of these brands interacts with their fans in different ways, but they all interact in each the ways I mentioned above – and more – to find such success with this marketing/business strategy. Without joining each of these communities, I am not able to provide any deeper insight into how they interact with community members.

Thank you again for your question, and I hope this information gives you what you need. Please contact Wonder again for any other questions you may have!

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