Communities, communities. That word is never out off brands lips to refer to the people they try to communicate with. But, by using the same word for everybody, they take the risk of treating everybody the same way and even misinterpret the feeling people have for them.
If we take the word community narrowly I would even say that some brands have no community and that it’s the case for most of them.
But if you absolutely want to use the word community, here’s what I can mean.
• Engaged people
Either clients or not, these people are engaged and active, sometimes about your brand, sometimes about a matter close to your brand. This engagement can be positive or negative. If you’re in the automotive industry you may benefit from the motor sport fans, if you’re an airline you’ll get travel addicts, in you’re in the oil and gas business you’ll get the environmentalists.
• An audience
People you talk to. Some have interest for you, some not, some are current or potential customers, some will never be, some are loyal to your brand, some are not. You talk to them but they don’t want to interact with you. To their eyes you can be utilitarian, a commodity, non-existent. You may want to change that, it will work for some, not for others, that’s the way it is.
These ones have a transactional relationship with you. But they can be loyal or not, see you as a commodity or not, different from your competitors or not. It means nothing in terms of engagement.
• Brand lovers
That’s the category most brands think about when they talk about communities. Back luck : very few brands have real fans, lovers. If you sell high tech maybe you have some, same if you make sport cars or luxury goods. But it does not means they are your clients (actual or potential) : most brands with a high fan potential are premium ones and not all fans can afford buying from them. That’s exactly why they dream of such brands. On the other hand if you’re in the detergent business, it’s more complicated for you.
But on the down side, the most attractive your industry is for fans the most you’ll have to deal with your competitor’s. When people really love a brand they often hate it’s competitors. Welcome to trolls and haters.
• People who like or follow you
They’re nothing but people who like and follow you. Either they fall into one of the previous categories or they’re just people who followed you or liked your page to access a content, because your community manager is talented, because you spent a lot of money in ads purchase. In short, the number of such people does not matter of all and what’s valuable is the quality of their engagement. A person has no value as a Facebook fan but because you can say to which category it belongs to.
• People who have a problem with you
Brand love to forget these people exist or can come out of the blue in the blink of an eye. To use one of my previous examples, it will be hard for you to have a community if you sell detergents but you’ll face the unhappy customers community if a suspect component is detected in the composition of your product. If you’re in the airline industry you may have lots of customers that don’t care about you but, suddenly, will become the community of the travellers pissed off by strikes.
Having communities, audiences, clients is good, but qualifying them to manage them and deal with them according to what they are is better.
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