Social media marketing is a powerhouse for brands, but to be successful it takes more than just sharing ads and branded content across social platforms. Brands need to take their marketing a step further by focusing on who matters most: their customers. Building relationships with current and potential customers is a cornerstone for social media marketing in the digital age, and creating thriving communities has to be the center of your marketing strategy.
But what is community-driven marketing and how can brands use it successfully?
What is Community-Driven Marketing?
Consumers want authenticity from companies, particularly if they plan to purchase a product or service and social proof is a key tactic that helps address any worries or concerns a potential customer might have about making a purchase. Community-driven marketing takes this idea to the next level. With community-driven marketing, brands use authentic stories from real customers to build a community of loyal followers and drive product insight.
64% of consumers turn to online peer reviews (one type of UGC derived from community-driven marketing) before purchasing. User-generated content helps validate brands and provide word-of-mouth recommendations and social proof, whether it’s through reviews (written comments, unboxing videos, etc.) or through real customer photos showing happy buyers.
Community-driven marketing is the best strategy brands can use to harness content and engage their audience. By leveraging user-generated content and building a community, brands can create relationships with customers, who then become brand advocates and some of the best micro-influencers.
What’s the Difference?
Unlike traditional social media marketing, community-driven marketing is highly interactive by nature. Community-driven marketing is a two-way conversation that encourages feedback of every sort from the audience. When brands ask followers to share their feedback in the form of reviews or images, it creates an opportunity for followers to feel connected and it sparks conversations. This community-driven content drives more engagement than traditional branded marketing and engagement is crucial to spreading word-of-mouth recommendations and creating brand affinity. User-generated content provides a more personalized and authentic experience, something that is important to a large percentage of today’s customers.
Telling real customer stories with user-generated content is a hallmark of community-driven marketing that social media marketing has overlooked before. Unlike typical social media marketing, it’s adaptable and interactive. One of the best things about this type of community-focused marketing is that the content is a fresh, live way to show how real customers are engaging with brands. When new trends begin, they’re captured through user-generated content.
Community-driven marketing is more agile than traditional branded content. In the fast-moving ecosystem of social media, staying on top of emerging trends is more important for marketers than ever before and this content can then be used in as many ways as you can imagine. From thank you emails and social media posts to shoppable website galleries and out-of-home media, UGC can be integrated across channels and in every stage of the funnel.
How to Uplevel your Social Media Marketing
Not only do consumers respond well to a community-driven approach on social media–they love creating content on behalf of the brand themselves. Community-driven marketing plays off the love we have for sharing our experiences but, to do it well, brands need to have a clear strategy and a clear ask. Setting some parameters around requests for content ensures high-quality content and adding in a hashtag or requesting users to mention their brand makes it easier to collect and curate relevant posts.
Ski resorts Squaw Valley, Big Sky, and Breckenridge saw firsthand how effective user-generated content can be when combined with a community mindset. They asked resort visitors to share photos enjoying the slopes, hanging out on the lifts, and enjoying après ski, creating original, user-generated content that showed authentic customer experiences.
For the Breckenridge Tourism Office, who wanted to encourage more visitors, it was a natural fit. The tourism office gathered amazing customer photos and videos under their #BreckBecause hashtag and featured posts on display advertisements. Both visitors and residents shared over 18,000 photos of their experiences that reached almost 2 million people and resulted in a 35% higher click-through-rate.
Whether the ultimate purpose is to drive awareness or increase conversions, user-generated content helps brands meet their goals while providing social proof, displaying authenticity, and creating a community of engaged followers. Genuine brand advocates and organic conversation may seem like a side benefit of UGC but are a key element in community-driven marketing. Investing the time and money into UGC has a huge ROI not only in terms of agile content, but it also helps create a thriving community that will continue creating UGC and driving brand awareness, long past the expiration date of a contest or campaign.