Every Sunday I read the newspaper I learn about the community and something I want to blog about. I rarely actually blog though. Life moves on and I forget with all of the other things I do.
Today I read in the Salt Lake Tribune, about a project that is headed by a Utah woman I know, Crystal Young-Otterstrom. Her job is an audience development specialist (which is kind of like what I do with social media, right?) with the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera and she is amazing at it. I’ve seen her work mostly from a distance for many years.
I don’t usually write about the arts, but I love them. My husband and I volunteer at the Symphony at Deer Valley every summer since we’ve been married, with me taking time off to watch our daughter. It’s a highlight of our summer.
First, Crystal started Vivace, a group for professionals that meets at local restaurants after concerts. She is continually educating the group about music and developing loyal fans. Today I learned that she also founded Cadenza , a group for older men and women to go to dinner and attend the symphony together. They also get a discount on tickets. Both support local businesses and are building community.
If you’re new in town and don’t have a date or someone to go to the symphony or opera with, you might decide not to go. Same if you’re older and live alone or just don’t have friends who can go to these events with you. Crystal noticed that “every year we lose some subscribers because their partner or spouse died and they have no one to go with.” With these two groups they’re reaching two key audiences: people who have money for the arts, (professionals) and those who are retired. Vivace will be the future Candeza.
If your business mainly reaches an older crowd, think about how you can replace and retain your most devoted customers. You must continue to find ways to engage with your best customers or you risk becoming forgotten or shrinking. Religions must do this. Businesses must too.
Building community is also brilliant marketing. One of the most rewarding things I’ve done for my career is to build a Facebook group of Utah bloggers. With just over 800 members, we teach and learn from each other. We see each other at events. The loyalty and community have have been hugely beneficial and enabled me to do so much more than I could’ve without them.
Facebook groups of all types have really made my life better, sometimes acting as my newspaper and connecting me with people. I don’t complain about Facebook, because of all that Facebook does for my business and for me personally, without charging. It makes buying ads or working harder for reach worth it.
My friend Mariel at Or So She Says told me she recently started to reward community by randomly sending gift certificates to her readers who leave comments and who respond to her content. It has greatly increased the loyalty of her fans, who comment and otherwise participate enthusiastically even after winning.
Sometimes I miss the comments and community I used to have on this blog when I blogged regularly. After my blog got deleted and I lost so many comments and I lost momentum. At around that time I switched more from writing about business to learning and applying it.
Encouraging or facilitating a community around your product or service can pay off. Sharpie has done it so well. Who would guess that a pen company would be so sharp at community building? They are long-time favorites.
When people find a sense of belonging with you they are less likely to look elsewhere. It makes being a part of something meaningful. As marketers I feel we do our job best when we appeal to people’s emotions, or heart. Community brings that into a business. You should look for ways to bring it into yours.
What other examples have you seen of brands building a loyal community?
How can you add more community into your business or cause?