Personas are over, you will think ‘consumer community’
We've all been there. You're brainstorming new products, services, or features with your team and you start to frame your customers in terms of what you think about buyer personas. You’ve likely drawn up countless visions of the ideal prospect, complete with characteristics like demographic breakdowns, hobbies and interests through to challenges, objections, media consumption habits and so on.
Your ideal prospect has a lot of responsibilities but limited bandwidth; they understand the benefits of implementing a new process at work but need to educate their team; they know that there are solutions out there but they need to convince their director to allocate budget to it. Great - your product is the answer to solve all the problems of that persona!
That sounds too good to be true, don’t you think?
What if I told you that personas, in isolation, are over? That you should stop making assumptions and instead listen and focus on building communities around your consumers? It’s time to nurture your audience and foster an environment of collaboration and trust. And what if I told you that with a consumer-based marketing approach, you could better understand what motivates their buying decisions, how to strengthen loyalty and improve your marketing performance?
Sure, you might have to change a few things in your strategy but believe me, you don’t want to miss that train.
What is a consumer community?
Traditionally, a consumer community is defined as a group of individuals that share an identity-based attribute. Examples of consumer communities include the military, college students, LGBTQ+, extreme sports enthusiasts, seniors, and so on.
Consumer-based marketing is an effective strategy for acquiring high-value customers who are likely to become repeat purchasers or brand advocates. It goes beyond traditional market segmentation - which generally relies on demographic traits, behaviours, and geographies - and engages customers based on an important aspect of their identity such as vocation, orientation, activities, interests, and perspectives.
To engage a consumer community, companies align their brand promise and brand integrity with what these consumers value. Because members of a consumer community are deeply connected, engaging them can trigger word-of-mouth marketing through social media or personal recommendations in a way that typical personas and market segmentation never could.
If you want to understand not only what your customers think, but how they feel and what they need, you need to get close to the data. We’re living in a new world where technology has brought us closer together than ever before. People from different backgrounds and cultures are now able to connect on an individual level and that can be very powerful.
Companies have the opportunity to use this connection as a starting point for creating a consumer community around their brand or product. By understanding what consumers want, we can build communities around common interests rather than relying on demographics or psychographics alone.
Consumer community: the next social media trend?
The pandemic and all its effects left us with a radically different type of consumer. One that is quickly adaptable and has a new set of interests and motivations. Since consumers are becoming too unpredictable to categorise, with stronger ethics; attention to detail and persona-centric marketing will no longer be effective.
As a result, in 2023, marketers will target their larger brand communities rather than individuals. They will concentrate on learning more about their consumer ecosystems, and they will pay close attention to who is initiating and spreading brand-focused dialogues. To foster genuine connections and user-generated content, brand communities will involve influencers of all sizes, staff advocates, and even regular consumers.
This will be made possible by private social media services like Discord, Signal, and Geneva, which focus on real contacts rather than content streaming. Even though Discord hasn’t reached a mature awareness level in the UK (47%), the country represents the platform’s 3rd biggest market. And with 10% of the British population using it in 2022, there is clear growing demand for a consumer community in the UK.
Discord brand awareness, usage, popularity, loyalty, and buzz in the UK in 2022. Source: Statista.com
Considering the cost of living crisis with spending power being spread thinner and thinner, it makes sense that more brands would seek to strengthen their proximity to their customers. Why wouldn’t they when we know that 66% of brand communities report that their community has led to increased loyalty.
How do you build a consumer community?
If you’re ready to dive into a community-based marketing approach, it’s time to start thinking about your consumers in a new way. You need to accept that they are not as clearly defined as they used to be. Instead of simply being an audience and potential buyers, they are now members of your brand community.
This means that you need to look at how you engage with them and how this communication changes over time, based on their interactions with each other and with your brand.
Ask the right questions
Make sure you have a clear picture of what you want to achieve with the community.
- Where do they go to interact and share their personal experiences?
- What is their preferred type of content?
- What do you want them to do?
- How does that affect your business?
- How does it affect the customer journey?
- What are some key metrics for measuring success or failure, and how will these be communicated within the community and outside of it?
Don't just ask questions; answer questions too. Don't just post content updates; respond to comments on those updates as well. You cannot be only an observer. It's important that you give a voice and a human face to your brand so that members of your consumer community feel like they're on a level playing field with you.
That's where community management comes in. It'll help build trust between members by facilitating conversations between customers and team members. The essence of a good community-based marketing approach lies in consistency and speed. You cannot engage with your community once every two months or reply to a tweet three weeks after it was posted. In this case, actions speak louder than words. You must create an almost constant stream of communication with your consumer community to show that you care, value them and share their concerns and excitement. Anything else will defeat the purpose of your community.
Find the right place
Now that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your community, you need to pinpoint the best place to communicate and engage with your consumers. From platforms like Slack channels, Facebook groups, Twitter feeds, to Reddit chat rooms or your own website… the options are pretty much infinite. You may find them on all of those but it is better to focus on specific channels when you’re working with limited resources. There are a few simple things to consider when picking the right one.
- Channel SOV: One of the easiest metrics to keep track of when choosing the right place for your community is your channel share of voice aka share of media types. Using social listening technology, you can find and measure where your consumers interact the most.
Coca-Cola consumers are more likely to engage with the brand on Twitter, but the data shows that forums, blogs and YouTube are also interesting channels for the beverage company to explore. Source: Talkwalker
- Content format: You might create the greatest videos or the best visuals in your industry, but what’s the point if your consumer community is keener on audio content? Another area to consider is the type of content that generates the most interest among your target audience. It could be smarter for your brand to focus on YouTube and TikTok if your consumers respond more to video content. On the contrary, maybe you should think about opening a chat room on Reddit or even your own brand’s forum if they prefer sharing their experiences on more conversational platforms.
- Influencers: Identifying who your micro-influencers and brand ambassadors are and where they exist is also an effective way to locate your consumers’ favourite place. One’s consumer community already has fully functional networks and ecosystems of interactions that are waiting to be tapped into. There is something out there for you, whether your audience is B2C (Disqus, Discord, Reddit…) or B2B (Guild, PRCA, CIM…).
Guild is a messaging platform for professional groups, networks and communities. It lets professionals share expertise, teach and learn from each other, and exchange ideas and contacts, for mutual and societal benefit.
Trend in action: GymShark
Countless fitness influencers you see on Instagram today relate themselves to this megaladon of a retail company. With that striking white Gymshark logo and bright-coloured workout pieces, it's hard to miss. Gymshark made it a point from the very beginning to put its community first - and still do!
Leveraging influencer marketing at first to thrust its brand out there to its target market, the fitness apparel brand held large events in popular cities with athletes, staff, and loyal consumers to create that in-person connection and essentially humanise the brand. Even after the events, everyone would lift together.
But that’s not it. The British fitness apparel brand maintains its large consumer community, through several channels. From different social media platforms (37K on Facebook, 348K on Twitter and 8.8M on TikTok!) to active blogs to keep its community engaged and strong. It always puts its community first, implementing a two-way communication strategy and always translating the ideas and feedback it receives into the products and events it puts out. And that’s not all, it’s also created a genuine sense of love and caring through its community-based marketing.
we’d love to see you smile in one of our campaigns. check your dm https://t.co/IjhBML1IW5
— Gymshark (@Gymshark) September 22, 2022
Why it's important
While influencers still flock to the most popular social media platforms (TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), we see a growing number of calls from these public figures to join private communities on alternative platforms such as Discord or Telegram to create closer connections with their audience. In these spaces, it’s less about the influencer broadcasting content, and more about the exchange between all community members.
Alternative platforms mentioned by community leaders and influencers. Source: Talkwalker Consumer Intelligence, Jan to Aug 2022
2023 will be the year that brands start to understand these community ecosystems and implement a consumer-based marketing strategy to create more organic relationships and connections.
If that is not enough to convince you, here are some recent brand community statistics:
- 86% of consumers claim that authenticity is essential when deciding which brands to like, follow and support
- 69% of consumers need to trust brands based on their impact on society
- Consumers who have an emotional connection with brands have a 306% higher lifetime value
- 93% of Twitter’s community members are open to brands that have a consumer-based marketing approach, who participate in a conversation, for example by helping and providing support.
Dig deeper into all the top social media trends in the UK
I’ve covered just one of the top social media trends in the UK for 2023 and highlighted a few brands that are already doing this well, but of course, you can see examples of consumer-based marketing and all these other trends in action across many UK brands. To get more details on the top ten social media trends in the UK mentioned above, and to see how brands globally are incorporating them, download the full report.