Community is at the core of many business models today. It’s the driver behind coworking, living, experiences and more. New businesses are emerging and flourishing by championing community. But, why is community such an important feature for businesses to grow?
In this article we’ll guide you through the benefits of nourishing a community for your business growth as well as look at some brands that have been successful off the back of an engaged community. So, let’s dive in together!
A strong community will remain loyal to your product despite everything. They’ll be your brand ambassadors through thick and thin and will naturally help you out with that all-important: word of mouth marketing.
These brand ambassadors have the power to expand your reach on organic channels, like social media, but also have the power to authentically connect you to their own community.
Think about how you can reward these brand ambassadors, or incentivize ways for them to help your reach. We do exactly this at OneCoWork with our referral program. We offer our members cash rewards when they help our community grow.
We found that referrals were happening naturally, even without cash rewards. However, it’s our way of saying thank you to our members.
A strong community is a knowledgeable one. They know your product and your brand just as well as your own team members. A community can be essential in innovation. We cannot tell you the number of new products we have seen emerge right here at OneCoWork with the support of a community giving feedback and inspiring innovation.
Whether you’re looking to launch new products, upgrade current ones or are looking to trial a new version of something before it officially goes to market.
A community can help to problem solve, innovate and can tell you exactly what the market wants, as more often than not, they are the market.
Look for ways of connecting with your own community and see how they can help you innovate.
One brand does this very well.
Remote Year is a work and travel program that initially started with an email from their now co-founder, that was sent round to his friends and passed on rapidly. “Who wants to travel and work around the world with me for a year.”
The growth of this business boomed. In fact, it never set out to be a business at all, yet Greg Caplan quickly had to go about setting up a landing page and accepting applications for what was suddenly a business concept the world had been waiting for.
Remote Year is a prime example of a community coming together over the mutual love of something. People, from around the world, rallied to make remote year happen and three years later they’ve just received their series B funding of $5 Million. Remote Year has an incredibly loyal community of travelers from around the world that they refer to as: The Nation.
There are countless ways we can share how they engage with their community and how the two support each other. However, for this particular example, we’ll stick to innovation. Remote Year’s community is exclusively their customers, so they already have the guarantee that all of their community members not only have a good understanding of the product but have experienced it.
Whenever Remote Year is unsure whether to launch a new product or are looking for feedback on a current one they’ll ask The Nation via Slack. This will be done via something as simple as Slack polls, to start with. Later on, this can often expand to focus groups and even trial experiences. The Nation is often happy to make the effort as not only are they loyal to the brand but they can be part of creating a product that they know they’ll enjoy.
Going back to school with Cialdini’s 6th Principle of Persuasion, Consensus. People follow people. The saying: “safety in numbers,” didn’t come about on its own. People constantly look at what other people are doing. It’s a safer bet than trying something new.
Once you have enough of a community for it to be realized as a consensus you’ll have no trouble expanding that community. What you’ll need to ensure is that your community grows with the same values and mission as your founding members.
When that larger community begins to form you can start to use it as a USP.
Much like G2 do. You’ll be able to champion your community as one of the unique selling points to your company. G2 are not only championing the sheer amount of people that they have within their community but they’re also championing the quality of each person.
They’ve put the barrier of entry so high in terms of creating quality content for them that it’s made people work that much harder to produce for them. To be published by G2, for people within that community, is a fantastic success.
The barrier of entry to writing for them is a huge contributor to attracting more writers in the first place.
Community funding can benefit you in more ways than one when it comes to business growth. By building a business that is mostly funded by a community you build a community that is financially tied to your company and will, therefore, be that much more determined to see you succeed.
The strength of a community that is emotionally and financially invested is always going to be that much stronger.
How else does this help your business grow? A community can be drawn to a new idea.
Rather than relying on a community you’ve already built and hoping they believe in the product enough to put their hard-earned cash into it, the idea itself can be what ties the community together in the first place.
Tropic Feel has a unique community that has come together in its early growth years. Tropic Feel started as a travel shoe and has since expanded into travel wear for the every-day traveler.
What Tropic Feel very quickly rallied was a Facebook community (in a group) of over 10,000 members. These were the “founding members” of the brand and have since lent their hands or opinions in the design of new products or features, for the Barcelona based startup.
So, how did the brand manage to get such a loyal following in such early years? Crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is a method of raising capital through the collective effort of friends, family, potential customers, and individual investors. It taps into the collective efforts of a large pool of individuals using social media or crowdfunding platforms (Fundable.com). It relies on a certain amount of "virality" to be a true success.
TropicFeel launched a Kickstarter campaign to help bring their first shoe to the market. The campaign raised over 2 Million USD with over 40,000 backers. The founder, Alberto Espinos, said he specifically chose to crowdfund to launch his business idea as he believes in a “collaborative business model”.
These backers meant that he had a community that was not only emotionally invested but financially too.
“If you back a project with your money you are very likely to be or to become a top-line ambassador for the brand.” - Daniel Dümig, New Business and Innovation Manager at ASICS.
A Community that has been cherished and nourished will support your brand, every step of the way. If things go wrong or in times that your business really needs it, they will rally. They will love the brand so much that the epic task of content creation will no longer need to be done in house. They’ll create bi-products of your own product that are designed to help your brand succeed.
It seems too good to be true? Could there possibly be a brand out there that has harnessed such a strong community that people want to create content for them? When we speak of content, we’re not referring to an image here or there, or even a blog or two. We’re talking about entire, online courses. Guessed it yet?
The Duolingo community experienced exponential growth with a core team of 40 members of staff. Duolingo’s earliest business model was crowdsourced to gain momentum and interest in their earliest days. They went up against some hefty competition, Rosetta Stone, but we’ll just pop this graph here:
They then set out to provide an entirely free service. Can you hear Cialdini whispering “Reciprocity” in your ear as you read? No? Well, here it is at its finest. They aimed to bring the product to market without charging their users a single cent. What does this do? Initiate loyalty. In 2013 the brand had a whopping $18 million in funding behind them.
Later that year they started to build community among businesses and not just consumers, by partnering with the likes of Buzzfeed and CNN. Duolingo’s most recent fundraising round was a $25 million Series E at a $700 million valuation.
They reported over 200 million users, 25 million of whom are active monthly (Product Habits). Astonishing for a company with less than 200 members of staff. Their community wants to support them so fiercely that they had to create a playbook for those wanting to create for them.
A Community has to work both ways. As with any relationship it can’t be all take. You’ll need to be fair in your asks of the community and be prepared to give back. Value them, cherish them and let them know that you respect them.
A Community is not this mythical gathering of creatures that no-one truly understands. They are a group of people that share mutual love over a thing. Let’s revisit that and cut it down.
They are a group of people.
They. Are. People.
Put yourself in the community you’re building, would you be happy to be there? What would you expect? If you’re not meeting your own expectations then the chances are you’re not meeting theirs either.
Gymshark does a fine example of taking and giving within their own community. GymShark took three paths to build the affluent community they have today. At a point, Gymshark was one of the fastest-growing companies in the world. It’s hard to believe it was founded by a 19-year-old in his mother’s garage, back in 2012. So, what are they doing so well?
The Gymshark blog is the heart of it all. They’re constantly turning out exercises, health tips, and workout inspiration, their blog is not a blog as we know it. It’s a valuable resource that people turn to and return to, time and time again.
Ladies and Gentlemen this is influencer marketing done right! Gymshark has a “handpicked” pool of athletes that share their own workout tips and (Gymshark) apparel with their communities; tying everyone together into the larger Gymshark community.
GymShark is constantly giving back and surprising their community with offline events, these can be pop-up discounted stores, workout classes with their athletes or simply insta-meets.
GymShark is a prime example of how to build a community that people want to be a part of, plus how a community can help customer growth and retention. Use them as an example of how a healthy community is built, it must be a street that goes both ways.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to identify ways you can implement community into your own business goals, as well as highlighting the potential that a strong community can bring to any sector.
Don’t be afraid to copy the strategies of other companies that have done it well. You’ll need to add your own twist, sure, but if it’s worked before it will most likely work again.
Learn from the examples we’ve used and let them inspire your own communities of tomorrow.
Ray Slater Berry is a freelance writer with nine years of experience in tech, innovation, and travel. He's also a published fiction author with his first novel available on Amazon worldwide: Golden Boy.