If a brand truly wants to become a fast-growing category leader, it must do more than connect with customers across social media – it must inspire them to be an extension of their marketing department and build the brand. To achieve this, a brand must start inside the company before focusing on external-facing communications. Without ensuring the internal culture of your brand is in place, marketing or even cause marketing efforts will come across as inauthentic leaving your brand open to accusations of cause-washing or green-washing that can lead to a costly PR crises.
To avoid this, a brand can start by answering three key questions to define its story:
- Why was the company started?
- What is it the only of?
- What difference does it want to make in the world?
The answer to these three questions will reveal themes that speak to the heart of the brand and ultimately the good it wants to do in the world. Once identified, leadership must communicate these commitments to employees and give them ways to participate in realizing social impact. Afterwards, a brand can start marketing its commitment to the world with messages that are community-facing rather than self-serving. Executed in this order, a brand’s commitment to doing good will come across as authentic and there will be critical alignment between what the brand is saying and what it is doing both inside and outside of the company.
With this purposeful brand story in place, a company can then become a ‘community architect’ by following three steps to building a self-sustaining customer community:
- LEVERAGE CUSTOMERS: First, recognize that companies do not build brands any more, customers do. This simple observation will fundamentally transform how you approach what you say and how you say it. So, frame each marketing tactic in terms of inspiring consumers to participate and to then share their efforts with their friends.
- CELEBRATE CUSTOMERS: Second, brands must stop talking about the good work they do in a self-directed way but rather talk about the positive impact on customers’ lives and the positive impact they are having on others. That’s when a brand will create content or messaging that their customers will want to share, rather then simply reject it as more self-serving advertising.
- REWARD CUSTOMERS: When a brand does reach out to customers and achieves the desired engagement, it must quickly upgrade that engagement and reward its consumer base for staying engaged. Done correctly, a brand can then position each tactic as a way to upgrade its customer engagement to the next tactic and, over time, build a self-sustaining community that will take on a life of its own.
By defining a purposeful and proprietary brand story, and then partnering with customers to build a brand community, companies can leverage social media to scale their business and social impact. Anything less undervalues the opportunities that social technologies unlock and underleverage the influence that customers can have in building your profit and purposeful impact.