Community is a word that has been used a lot because brands think they’ve mastered it with influencer marketing strategies. By tapping into an influencer’s community, a brand thinks that they are now a part of that community. And yet, countless brands still have problems connecting with these newfound circles. Why? Perhaps because what a brand has just spent thousands of dollars on aren’t new, loyal customers, but rather, by-standing scrollers. So how do you make the switch from by-standing scrollers to engaged brand-fans? How do you go from influencer strategies to community building? Sourdough bread can give us the answer (seriously, hear us out).
To make sourdough bread, the only thing you need is flour and water. You mix the two together and let them sit until you get culture (starter): a cluster of different bacteria species that appear to give shape and leaven (or rise) the dough. Once the dough rises, you are ready to bake the bread.
What’s unique about sourdough is that no single bacteria is responsible for what takes place to make the dough rise. It’s not a competition between the flour and water, it’s a collaboration. What’s also unique, is that it’s a living thing, subject to so many contingencies that to generalize or make rules for its management is impossible. The culture and rise has to happen organically. If we apply this to a brand, one could say that a living, branded community is just like the final sourdough bread, made up of only two ingredients; flour (the brand) and water (brand-fans), and what happens when they unite, is a lift. When done right, a beautiful bread (or community) is made.
But just like flour and water need to co-exist to make dough rise, brands and their true brand-fans need to co-create to lift and empower an authentic community. True brand lift will only come from genuine relationships that you plant with your true brand fans: people who are already advocates and lovers of your brand. A brand trying to create a community with the wrong audience is like trying to make bread with flour and vinegar — it just won’t work. “While partnerships and content can always be purchased, what you can’t buy is authenticity—the true, unbought passion a brand champion has for a product or brand. Brands should pursue relationships with personas who share their values, and who will advocate for their products with genuine enthusiasm” (Tribe Dynamics).
This is perhaps the biggest thing to note: customers are more savvy than ever, and can tell the difference between a person truly loving a brand and advocating for it vs. when they are just getting paid to talk about it. “Consumers can see if someone honestly cares about a product or whether they are just trying to push it,” said Anders Ankarlid, chief executive of online stationery retailer A Good Company. “The bubble is starting to burst.” -- It’s not culture anymore -- it’s commercial” (WSJ). Think of it as commercial, mass-made Wonderbread, that you can buy in the bread aisle at any supermarket. Sure, it’s still bread, but people can taste the artificial ingredients, sense the preservatives and know that what they are buying isn’t authentic.
The final thing to note about starter in bread making, and perhaps the most important, is that once you start it, it continues to stay alive as long as you continue to feed it with more flour and water on a regular basis. The same can be applied to your brand’s community strategy. To keep your community alive, you need to opt for an "always on" community strategy. A continuous loop where your brand and your brand fans interact, connect and empower one another, daily. It’s not about the one influencer that will share the message to 1M+ followers for the hopes of brand awareness — it’s about tapping into your 200 brand champions that will passionately share their love to their like-minded, close circle of friends that will inspire action. “Consumers want quality, but they also want brands with integrity.” (Marketing Week) and the best way to show that you truly care about your biggest fans, is by investing in them.
At Zyper, we help you find your top brand fans to create and strengthen communities. If you'd like to learn more about community marketing and how to turn your passive followers into active brand advocates email us: email@example.com