Kashem Miah is the VP of brand marketing at a Fintech startup called GoHenry. Kashem has spent more than 12 years in a variety of marketing roles from content marketing to growth marketing to brand building. He’s previously worked at other tech companies such as Shutterstock and Fiverr.
In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss why we should build a loyal brand community and how we can do that.
Why should I build a community?
A brand community is a group of our most loyal customers. They are the customers who are passionate about our brand, leave reviews, provide feedback, and recommend us to others. We should focus on building a brand community to help grow our businesses and really connect with our most valued customers.
Kashem has spent a large portion of his career spending time with users within the community and talking to them about what gets them excited about being part of a brand. He explained that a community solidifies who we are as a brand because it brings people who are excited about our brand together.
Over the years, he has seen numerous benefits of a good brand community. Here are three major benefits he has seen.
1. A community increases customer loyalty.
Building a brand community shows our customers that we care for them. When we stay active within our communities and ask for customer feedback, our customers feel that their opinions and thoughts are valued. This will increase customer loyalty and appreciation.
A community also offers customers an opportunity to be a part of something bigger. Instead of simply being a buyer, they become a valued member of our brand; they are heard and can make a difference. When they feel like they can be a part of a supportive group, they will naturally feel more loyal to that group.
“You get passionate members who are at the forefront, being open about what they want from you, and as a result of that, you get to have conversations that you wouldn’t be able to if you’re just sending a newsletter,” Kashem said. “It helps solidify what the brand is and makes people want to be a part of something bigger than just being a customer member.”
Airbnb has built its roots in community building. They have created a platform where their hosts can be a part of something greater, giving them a chance to make a difference. When Airbnb had issues with city properties and zoning laws, they got the community to go on their behalf to city hall and fight for their right to rent out their apartments and homes. Their customers were most likely only willing to do this because they felt like they belonged in a community that had the power to make a difference for good.
As we build customer loyalty within our communities, our customers become willing to help us grow.
2. A community builds credibility.
“What community marketing does is it brings credibility,” Kashem said. “One of the holy grails of marketing is that you want word of mouth marketing. Everyone wants to be a topic of conversation, and if you want to be able to do that, you have to have people care about what you bring to the table.”
What we say about ourselves is no longer credible. People simply don’t trust advertisements or even company websites as much as they used to. Instead, they want to hear about our company from other credible people: friends, influencers, and other people in their lives. As we build a community, those community members hear from people who are more credible than us. The community begins to be our voice speaking out to the world, giving us credibility. Passionate users will speak on our behalf and others will trust their word over ours.
“Community building makes a difference in how customers talk about your product with other like-minded folks,” Kashem said. “A community [gathers] people who are going to go out there and talk about you . . . in the way that you want to be talked about. It’s not going to be a marketing message; it’s very authentic. They’ll absorb what you have to say, so it doesn’t feel like an ad; it doesn’t feel like a marketing message from a brand.”
3. A community builds brand awareness.
Just as word-of-mouth marketing in our communities builds credibility, it also increases our brand awareness. Instead of having to pay for ads, we can rely on our customers to market for us. Instead of looking at an interrupting ad on a poster or website, customers can listen to their friends talk about our brand.
In an online community, our customers can also create content for us. They may post a picture of our products or tweet about how much they enjoyed our services. As they do this, it builds our online presence and increases our reach of other audiences.
How do I build a brand community?
We can build our community on a number of platforms. It could be on social media, our website, our newsletters, in-person events, etc. However, no matter what channel we use to build our communities, how we build a community comes down to the same fundamentals. Kashem shared his best pieces of advice on how to build a loyal brand community. Here are four steps.
1. Look at the data and find the people who are most passionate about your brand.
“Pick [community members] that are really passionate about who you are, the brand, and what you believe in,” Kashem said.
When Kashem joined Fiverr, his first responsibility was to understand their brand community. He asked himself, “Who are our most active members? How do we engage with all the members in our community?”
To help him answer these questions, he ran a massive survey. “We noticed that the most passionate users also tend to be the ones that gave us the most feedback,” Kashem said. “Then we took the information out of the survey and sorted out some of the most qualified research with more engaged members, and we started to put them in little groups. It started early on with Skype groups.”
Kashem and his team put together five Skype groups, varying by how much money they spent on Fiverr’s platform, how active they were, how much communication they had, if they followed the company on different channels, etc. Kashem explained that those Skype groups became “feedback pods” and that’s how they began to form their community.
We should take a look at our data to find those customers who are most passionate about our brand. We could look at our website analytics, purchase history, run a survey, or run a focus group to help us find our super-users.
2. Give back to your community.
When Kashem began building a community, he knew he had to answer one major question all customers have: “What’s in it for me?” In our communities, we need to give something back to our customers. Why should they join our communities? What value can we give our customers? This often means sharing and posting consistent valuable content for our community members.
“Put [community members] in a situation that allows them to share feedback that doesn’t feel like market research or user research,” Kashem said. “It needs to feel like it’s a two-way street, where they’re getting some sort of benefit out of the community brand working directly with them, and then build them into the process of either product building or marketing. . . . Make them feel like they’re actually helping.”
In Kashem’s communities, he helped promote his members’ businesses and gave them an opportunity to give feedback on how they could build a better product for them. He consulted with members whenever they were going to release a new feature, and even brought some of their community members onto their podcast to share their stories. He also made sure to always thank his community members for their time and valuable feedback.
“When you think about the building of a community, it’s key to offer the community something that’s unique, that is not just a promo, that is not just some sort of monetary incentive,” he said.
A big mistake is not being transparent with our community. If we ask for their feedback and advice, then go and create features without letting them know, they might feel taken advantage of. Remember, giving back to our community might be something as simple as letting them know we are creating features because of their suggestions.
3. Spend time early on with community members.
We should get to know our community members early on. One of the most important things we can give our community is time. Remember, they are human beings and we want to treat them as such. If we want to experience all of the benefits a community can offer, we need to put time and effort into building it and show our members that we care about them.
“Start spending time early with committee members,” Kashem said. “Put a social media manager or a community manager on the task force, then let them spend time with some of those members to get to know them, . . . and start building some stories out of that, whether it’s content, whether it’s a blog post. Leverage those stories that you can start telling to other community members and other customers that you want.”
Wix.com is a great example of a company that gave time to their community early on and continued to nurture those relationships. They put together offline sessions where they taught people about their business. Their community members could meet up in cafes to hear about Wix’s brand. Wix hosted events in multiple states where members could engage with other community members, as well as Wix employees. They built a network.
4. Don’t forget about your community.
“Don’t forget about the community,” Kashem said. “Constantly keep them in mind as you’re building out a go-to-market plan, as you’re building a product feature, as you’re thinking about tech improvement. . . . You’d be surprised how much information the committee members can bring to the table, whether that’s user research or expertise. . . . Constantly keeping that dialogue back and forth with them can make a difference.”
Not only should we communicate with our community, but we should also create consistent content that is relevant for our customers.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is not giving our communities enough love and support. Remember, they are a part of our marketing team. They create marketing messages for us, so we need to spend enough time with them. Sometimes when our business grows at a fast rate, we take things that take time and move them to the bottom of our priority list. This is a mistake. We want to consistently build our communities. This means engaging with them, sharing valuable content with them, and making sure they see benefits for the work they do for us.
Thank you so much Kashem for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. Building a brand community can increase customer loyalty and appreciation.
2. The community can be our voice speaking out to the world, giving us credibility. Passionate users will speak on our behalf and others will trust their word over ours.
3. Our communities can build brand awareness.
4. We should pick customers who are passionate about our brand to be a part of our communities.
5. We need to show our customers what’s in it for them. We should offer benefits for being part of our community.
6. We should get to know our community members early on. One of the most important things we can give our community is time.
7. We should continually engage with our community and provide them value.
Connect with Kashem
To learn more about or connect with Kashem:
-Visit his website at Medium.com/@KashMiah
1. Get my free ebook about passion marketing, and learn to identify and leverage the highest passions of our ideal customers at PassionMarketing.com.