With social media and marketing practices ever evolving in response to consumer behaviors and trends, businesses and marketers need to be agile and adaptive in order to keep up. Though social media is predominantly built around users sharing about their individual lives and experiences, in recent years and especially with what’s happened in recent months, there’s been a shift from a focus on “me” to a focus on a collective “we.” As humans, we are always looking for ways to identify ourselves and for places to belong. We crave connection and particularly with how the global pandemic has forced us into a world of social distancing, users are looking to online communities for social experiences and to satisfy the need to belong.
So what does this mean for marketers? In a world where we are marketing to target audiences built up of individuals with similar interests and demographics, this should be business as usual, right? Wrong. They can be very effective ways of targeting your marketing efforts, because we know that communities influence from within. With their reach and established audience, if there’s a fit, focusing on community-based media channels can be a strategic option. The difference stems from the fact that online communities have their own form of culture associated with them. But, in order for a brand to effectively market to such a community, they need to have an understanding of the community culture and provide value to the community at large, and not just focus on individual characteristics or demographics. Community culture can include the types of language that they use, the experiences that they focus on or share, and the tools or roles that they implement within the community.
Consumers, especially during times of crisis, turn to their online communities for support, relevant information, and potential distraction from the current situation. They trust the community that they’re a part of, typically participating in more vulnerable conversations or experiences because of this trust. In order for a brand to weave their way into the community and into the conversation, the focus needs to be on transparency, authenticity, and providing value to the community. For marketers, this means identifying communities that strongly align with your brand or product, and working with community leaders to find marketing solutions or media opportunities that fit seamlessly in with the community culture and activities. Paying attention to the cultural norms and elements are key for embedding a brand into the community, and weaving it into the culture.