We set out on a journey to understand community marketing. To catalog, create discipline and make meaningful evaluations of brands and their community strength. We went deep—beyond just identifying the brands that best channel their communities. We had a fire to understand why.
So we poured through academic papers, delved into business literature, and surveyed success metrics and marketing approaches of companies across industries to understand just what makes successful community marketing work.
Even across a wide disciplinary and economic landscape, we noticed one striking phenomenon that became our rallying cry:
Instead of creating communities from the ground up, they engage with communities that form organically. They shift from top-down communication to meaningful conversations. They build relationships that evolve, grow and stand the test of time. They become part of the fabric of the community itself, nurturing it and making it stronger. And then, they use the network effect to spread the word, buying more authentic loyalty with fewer dollars.
Our project has resulted in a usable metric for you to measure your own brand’s community attachment and a ranking of the top ten community brands for the year. The more we learn and engage with community marketers, the more we grow together.
Belonging is a fundamental human need. In Maslow’s classic hierarchy, it sits just above survival and safety, and is a necessary precursor to developing our individual identities.
In our internet-dominated era, finding that feeling of belonging is simultaneously easier, and so much harder. We are more digitally connected, but we are also more disconnected, isolated and alone than ever.
In 2018, a national survey by Cigna of more than 20,000 Americans ages 18 and over showed that most U.S. adults are considered lonely. That particular study found that the youngest generation of those surveyed were the loneliest of all, due perhaps in part to the loss of place-based communities. A recent poll by YouGov confirmed that Millennials have surpassed Generation X and Baby Boomers as the loneliest generation.
Yet, the online world has also shifted how we define community. A 2017 article in The Atlantic titled “What Does ‘Community’ Mean?” describes this fundamental shift:
“Community, in this sense, is not merely something that one fits into; it is also something one chooses for oneself, through a process of self-discovery. It is based on shared circumstances, certainly, but offers a transcendent kind of togetherness.”
The internet has changed how we approach belonging, powerfully and fundamentally. But one thing that has not changed is the vital importance of finding somewhere to belong.
Community marketing is not a new idea. But discipline around it and a metric to evaluate its performance is.
Here’s why this is important according to McKinsey:
Digital platforms are responsible for generating a tremendous—and growing—amount of business. So it only makes sense that brands should be measuring the impact of their engagement with communities on those platforms.
Finally, given the need to belong and the power of platforms, it’s imperative to include community marketing to round out the overall marketing mix. With our Community Quotient, there’s now a measurement framework to assess your performance in community marketing.
A more powerful marketing mix: