“Sticky Branding” by Jeremy Miller
“Sticky Brands just seem to be everywhere. They have a buzz about them that’s usually the domain of much larger companies.” But “unlike the big guys, they don’t spend outrageous amounts of money on marketing and advertising. They stand out by growing their community.” (page 121)
This concept isn’t new. In fact, Seth Godin wrote a book called “Tribes” in 2008 about community building. It is the internet that made and makes community building so much easier these days. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and let’s take a closer look at how Miller does community building.
Let’s start with the fundamentals. According to Miller there are three layers of relationships:
Layer 1 is your Inner Circle. The Inner Circle is made up of people you have a deep relationship with, such as friends and family. Most people have between 10 and 30 such connections.
Layer 2 are your Personal Connections. They are your casual friends, acquaintances, colleagues, prospects, clients, etc. whom you meet or see on a regular basis at industry events, conferences, maybe for lunch or coffee.
Maintaining your connection with your Inner Circle and your Personal Connections takes time and effort. In other words, time is the limiting factor for how many close friends and personal connections you (or anyone else, for that matter) can have.
That’s why the third layer, the Community, is where “things start to get interesting” (page 122) because it eliminates the cap of how many people you can connect with. Others do it for you. They bring their friends and personal connections to your community if they find your blog, social media post, newsletter, you name it, interesting and relevant. It’s up to you to show off your company’s uniqueness by sharing your values, your opinions, and your vision. If we add consistency to the mix, we create the perfect opportunity to build credibility and relationships and, in doing so, support our business.
Do you remember the Lower 90% from the previous chapter? This is where your community building is kicking in. It allows you to develop a relationship with prospective customers before they need your product or service. Even community members who will never buy from you are important, because they may spread the word about you and your company or recommend you to friends and family. Whereas traditional marketing and advertising is limited by resources, building a community, especially with the help of the internet, is boundless.
Let’s add some numbers to the game of community building. According to Clay Shirky, the author of “Here Comes Everybody” and “Cognitive Surplus,” 90 percent of your audience will be “lurkers,” members who don’t participate but listen or read. Only one percent will engage and post comments, forward your articles or invite new members into the community. The remaining nine percent are curators, members who share your content through their social media platforms. To keep a conversation going and make your community interesting you need at least 10 active members. If you do the math, you’ll come to the conclusion that you’ll need an audience of at least 1000 members.
A daunting number when you start out. So, where do you find the first 1000 members? Miller says, “The first thousand members of your community come from your Personal Connections.” (page 128) They join your community […] ”because they like you, trust you, and want to support you.” (page 128) You’ll get them on board by asking them to join.
The LinkedIn Group of Sticky Brands started small, “five people to be exact” (page 128) and grew over time because Jeremy Miller and his team put time and effort into it. “We made a point of being active networkers – both online and offline.” (page 128)
Building your own brand community isn’t the only way to be “everywhere.” You can support or sponsor existing ones instead. You could reach out to industry organizations, be active in your hometown, exhibit or sponsor an event at a conference. Whatever floats your boat. The key is to find the right group(s), organization(s), or event(s) that share your company’s values and interests. There are a million opportunities.
A word of caution though. Keep in mind that, especially in the beginning, building your community takes time and effort. Focus on what you can do well and what promises the biggest impact on your business. Experiment with various approaches and check what worked and what didn’t. Expand on what was received well and change course if the result isn’t satisfactory.
There is one point, Miller emphasizes: Don’t mistake your community for a lead generating platform. Miller writes that “There is a fundamental difference between marketing and community building. Marketing is all about your company and your brand.” […] “Community building has the opposite focus: it’s not about you, it’s about everyone else.” Page 131) […] “You don’t own the community. You are a member of it.” (page 132)
I partly agree. I’m a member of a couple of groups, and most of what is shared in these groups is information, best practices, helpful tips, books etc. But a minor portion of it is about new courses, services, and products. It’s done in a manner that I find not intrusive; it feels like sharing relevant information. My point being, it is up to you where you draw the line and how you do it. “People see right through marketing-driven communities and avoid them.” (page 132) Remember, your goal is building a community by developing, nurturing, and scaling relationships. You want your members to interact with you and your brand, grow your network, and tell their friends when they need your services or product. The best way to achieve this is by being generous and sharing helpful information.
Now it’s time for you to build and grow your community. Here is a modified To-Do-List from the book. To get started:
- Make a list of who you know and who you can invite to your community.
- Write personalized invitations and be specific in what you want the recipient to do.
- If you have exhausted your network, think outside the box about how to market your group to other networks.
- Ask your community for help. Who do they know and invite to join?
And ensure that you are:
- present: start conversations with your members and interact with them.
- opinionated: show your personality, share your point of view, how you solve problems, and what you believe in.
- generous: be proactive, help others make progress and be heard.
- “everywhere”: to be more precise, be where your customers are and where you have the greatest impact.
Let me know in the comments below how it is going for you. How do you approach the topic of community building? What is your experience in starting and growing a community? What stumbling blocks did you encounter? What is your best practice advice?
See you next week!