Your brand is one of the most important assets your business owns (no pressure).
What are you doing today to strengthen your brand for tomorrow?
There’s a good chance you’ve already spent significant time on different brand-strengthening strategies. From logos and messaging to crafting the perfect mission statement and cultivating an audience, you’ve put in the work to get your brand to where it is now.
But what about a welcoming and vibrant home for these consumers?
An online brand community is exactly what you need to bring your audience together, and secure long-term success.
Let’s have a look at what an online brand community entails and dive into some genuine success stories from brands just like yours.
What is an Online Brand Community?
An online brand community is a destination where your consumers can come together and engage with your brand and other like-minded people. This can range from consumers with a beginning interest in your product or service to those who believe strongly in your brand’s mission, lifestyle, and purpose.
An online brand community is all about your audience—and not just those who have previously purchased from you. Online brand communities aim to bring in those who have an emotional connection to your brand in purely non-transactional ways, too. These are the true ambassadors of your brand.
It’s important to note that an online brand community is not a social media group. We understand that many brands already have established audiences on other platforms. However, some benefits are exclusive to online brand communities.
Why Create an Online Brand Community?
If you already have an audience on several platforms, why bother with an online brand community? Isn’t it just another platform to manage and moderate?
The truth is that an online brand community can elevate and strengthen your brand far beyond what social media platforms can do.
Increase Your Marketing Efficiency
An online brand community is a perfect solution for resource-strapped teams. You can easily streamline all of your consumer acquisition, retention, and brand loyalty efforts in one place.
With Vesta, in particular, we’ve seen brands able to replace 4+ other marketing tools and vendors, saving time and money. Our online community platform and team have the capabilities and experience to fully deliver on clients’ sampling programs, user-generated content aggregation, ambassador and influencer management, and rewards programs to name just a few.
You can also use an online brand community for your consumer research and polling, quickly and efficiently collecting valuable insights from your audience. In many cases, capturing consumer insights the old-fashioned way—with market research firms—can take months. With consumer trends and markets shifting at a breakneck pace, you need access to quick insights to keep up with the competition.
With an online brand community, you can access an efficient channel that delivers zero party data and consumer insights in real-time. Use this to keep up with various trends and gather feedback about your brand as a whole.
Strengthen Your Brand’s Reach
One of the primary benefits of an online brand community is strengthening your brand’s presence and awareness. With this new dedicated space for loyal consumers, first party can create authentic and shareable content to help reach new audiences. And you’ll have access to a library of license-free, high-quality content that you fully own to enrich product pages and marketing campaigns.
User-generated content is also one of the strongest forms of social proof. In fact, 79% of people say that user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions. This number continues to grow, too—it’s up from 60% back in 2017.
Not only can user-generated content help increase conversions, but it can also draw in more community members who want to be a part of something themselves. This creates a snowball effect—before you know it, members who joined your community because of user-generated content are now creating content as well!
Create a Channel for Full Data Ownership
One of the most prominent issues with groups and pages on social media platforms is that you’re subject to their rules and policies. There are four main reasons why this is detrimental to your community:
- You don’t own the data you collect
- You don’t make the rules
- You have limited branding opportunities
- You can’t control the negative perception of the platform as a whole (Facebook, for example)
An online brand community helps you avoid the pitfalls associated with other platforms. You’ll be able to collect zero party and first party data that is yours to keep and use in future marketing endeavors. You can establish rules that make sense for both your team and your community members. You can create an authentic branded space using logos, color schemes, brand language, and more. The possibilities are seemingly endless compared to other platforms, such as Facebook.
Examples of Successful Online Brand Communities
To demonstrate the power of community, let’s look at some examples of brands that have found continued success with online brand communities and what makes them unique.
Hero Cosmetics is a fast-growing, premium beauty brand that empowers people with acne-prone skin. Their first product was the well-known acne product Mighty Patch. Since then, the brand has been on a meteoric rise, adding over 30 products to their line.
Hero Cosmetics has faced challenges along the way in the highly competitive beauty and skincare space. As a true skin champion, they had a passionate consumer base but no way to cultivate and harness those relationships.
They also wanted to take their product sampling to the next level, driving influential, authentic reviews and valuable insights they could use in future marketing campaigns.
With Vesta’s help, Hero Cosmetics established an online brand community: The Hero Skin Squad. The community’s mission is to provide a space where people can connect and communicate about their skincare journey.
In just one year, the community has generated 690 high-quality product reviews, over 7,500 pieces of user-generated content, and an increase in Net Promoter Score by 23%. And in 2022, the brand utilized the community to successfully launch six new products.
From increased word-of-mouth and reviews to elevated sales and increased basket size, there’s no doubt that an online brand community is one of the most effective marketing channels for increasing awareness, acquisition, and growth.
Find out more about the results driven by the Hero Skin Squad community in this case study.
The ARM & HAMMER brand has been a well-established brand for over a century, but its Cat Litter product line struggled to secure loyalty among happy customers while activating advocacy and generating insights.
ARM & HAMMER Cat Litter launched its Kitty Krew online brand community as a home base for customers to connect with the brand. Here, customers can participate in interactive digital experiences, including tailored offers, relevant discussions, fun activities, and more.
The brand also knew how important social proof and referrals were to drive sales. With the Kitty Krew, the brand can mobilize and activate targeted consumers to share their ARM & HAMMER Cat Litter experience through reviews, UGC photos and videos, and much more.
In a Nielsen 360 Audience Analysis, ARM & HAMMER discovered the Kitty Krew Community drove a whopping 13X greater Customer Lifetime Value than any other brand channel. Additionally, the brand has achieved 5,300+ reviews and a +275% increase in the loyalty points earned by consumers.
Grubhub recognized that word-of-mouth promotion is a powerful tool for driving conversions and strengthening their brand. This was the inspiration for creating their “Tastemakers” communities: Online brand communities for general diners and for college campuses that have generated thousands of brand engagements and authentic user-generated content.
With their new communities, Grubhub has actively encouraged members to participate in campaigns that spark social sharing. This could be anything from simply posting and sharing photos on Instagram to hosting a full virtual dinner party with friends.
Grubhub took advantage of Vesta’s extensive opportunities to collect first party data as well. Through surveys, polls, and discussion boards, Grubhub collects data, segments their audience, and delivers relevant offers.
In less than one year, Vesta has helped Grubhub reach over 53,000 community members. Want to see more of the ROI their community has delivered? Check out this case study.
Sir Kensington’s wanted a community for health-conscious foodies that don’t want to skimp out on flavor.
With Vesta, they created a vibrant online brand community that helps them build genuine brand loyalty through a channel owned by Sir Kensington’s themselves.
One of the most crucial aspects of Sir Kensington’s online brand community is its direct access to consumers to co-create new products. They can directly communicate with their customers and collaborate to release unique sauces requested by their audience.
Sir Kensington’s has also tapped into the insights gathered from zero party data and first party data to understand what resonates with their audience.
In less than a year, Sir Kensington’s had 13,000 pieces of user-generated content created. Want to see more of the ways community members said “Yes, Sir!” to the brand and community? Check out this case study.
When asked about the difference between a social media page or traditional marketing channels and an online brand community, Sir Kensington’s head of community strategy said: “platforms like Instagram and email are one-way communication channels better served for broadcasting news and updates. With Vesta, we are building a community of fans that are invited to co-create with us, which deepens our relationship with each member in a unique way.” To hear more about their experience, listen to their full interview on our podcast.
On their mission to offer healthy and delicious food choices to families across America, Veggies Made Great wanted to cultivate meaningful relationships with their passionate fans.
They initially struggled with building their own consumer community on social media, lacking the effective tools and expertise to manage the community and maximize its potential.
With Vesta’s help, Veggies Made Great established an on-brand, welcoming destination for those looking to make healthier food choices and share in the lifestyle. Their recipe for success includes a mix of fun activities, including one campaign where members were asked to plant discount coupons in stores worldwide and spread the word on social media.
With their Vesta community as a whole, Veggies Made Great saw a 25% increase in sales! You can check out some of the other great results – and fun user-generated content – Veggies Made Great was able to harvest from their community in this case study.
Online Brand Communities are Crucial For Strengthening Your Brand
While all of these successful brands have established audiences on other platforms, none of the game-changing advocacy, social proof, or sales growth would have been possible without the help of their online brand community.
From increasing your overall marketing efficiency to collecting valuable zero party data, there’s no denying the importance of community to your overall brand strategy. This welcoming home for your audience can help drive conversions through word-of-mouth promotion, generate powerful recommendations and user-generated content, and help inform your future marketing efforts.
Get set up with an online brand community of your own, and you can create your own community success story. Your audience is waiting.
Looking For More Information On What Consumers Want in Online Brand Communities?
Check out the results of our recent Big Online Brand Community Study to see what almost 5,000 consumers said they want in an online community and how they feel about brands embracing Community Powered Marketing.