Your brand is no longer just about you or your company. Now, branding is all about the individual. They are seen as symbols representing some part of a customer’s personality, and 89% of customers will stay loyal to a brand that matches their personal values, according to a 2017 study by the global digital agency Wunderman (in partnership with Penn Schoen Berland).
For example, someone who proudly wears Nike is likely into health and physical activity, someone who is an animal rights supporter will shop for cruelty-free brands and a woman of color will likely take pride in supporting brands owned by other women of color.
These are just a few examples of how brands now act as a foundation for a community. More than ever, customers are leveraging the internet to research products and participate in groups that align with their personal values. This means that the most successful companies are the ones that can break through the noise of competitors by establishing a strong brand community.
There are potentially many avenues to take in achieving this goal. Here are a few examples of how popular brands have successfully leveraged social media channels to create a lasting community.
Being your brand: Gary Vaynerchuk’s cult of personality is a TikTok hit
Just one of the remarkable statistics in Cloudflare’s rankings for Internet traffic in 2021 is that TikTok was officially more popular than Google Chrome. It has been downloaded more than two billion times, and the average user accesses it at least eight times per day. In fact, the app is so popular that the number of followers of the top 50 TikTok influencers now exceeds 16% of the global population.
Clearly then, its incumbent upon brands to understand the value of building a solid TikTok presence. Fortune 100 media chairman and self-made entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, better known by his online handle GaryVee, has mastered the art of building a community around himself. His TikTok has 13.3 million followers, and he regularly focuses on creating on-trend content that grabs attention while imparting knowledge and wisdom. Further, he is a master at creating a community that reaches beyond surface-level connections, and as a result there are very few people who don’t at least know his name.
Make it cheeky: Gymshark’s Twitter approach is full of fun
British fitness apparel brand Gymshark knows that sometimes the best approach to community is laughter. Its main Twitter account is less focused on marketing activewear and more on bringing fans together with funny and relatable tweets. It now boasts a Twitter community of nearly 330,000 members, which grows steadily.
Cultivating a true community on Twitter is often tricky because the platform isn’t as popular as it once was, but this brand has successfully drawn supporters in with cheeky, on-topic campaigns like live-tweeting the Superbowl or sharing a Monday motivation workout playlist.
The lesson here is that for some brands, the right move is not to take themselves too seriously, making them more relatable and accessible.
Grassroots to global: Starbucks unifies its customers, suppliers and employees across platforms
This now 33,000-plus-store multinational chain is a shining example of taking a grassroots community and transforming it into a global phenomenon. Every single person involved with Starbucks is united under its iconic siren logo. From farmers and suppliers to employees (referred to as “partners”) and patrons, the company consistently creates a single thread of community that makes everyone feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves.
Starbucks is also well-known for a culture of social change and positive impact, from its stores to its online presence. This includes community outreach programs in local markets, bringing global communities together. These efforts have the positive side effect of imbuing the business with tremendous amounts of brand equity.
Whether customers are accessing their mobile app, watching a commercial, posting on TikTok or participating in a members-only reward game, Starbucks has mastered cross-platform community building.
A strong community is only limited by your creativity
The examples above show that there are no hard limits on what makes a strong brand community. This is especially true as technology continues to advance and expand access to one another. The most important thing to remember is that yours should be built on providing a genuine connection between your company and your customers, as well as among individuals.