Community guides culture.
You can create a Facebook group for just about anything. Worse yet, just about anyone can be invited to join your group. Worse still, pretty much anyone and everyone might try to join your group.
Combined, this is why Facebook groups are probably one of the worst ways you can build a community around your brand. Almost every brand, company, storefront, and organization attempts some kind of “community” as an arm of their marketing plan. The thinking is simple: get your customers in one spot, and it will be easier to sell to them. This is also not what a “community” is for. Telling people to go to a specific place for a single reason is called a “meeting.”
While every community can have meetings, most meetings are not communities.
I say this because I have just turned down several dozen invitations on various social networks to join one “Mastermind” or “networking” group or another, all of them hosted by some kind of “marketing guru” who wants my involvement to sell me on their program. They all run the same playbook, they’re all after your cash, and every single one of them misses the point of the “community.”
When it comes to your brand, culture creates community, and the community then guides the culture.
It takes a village to raise a child. Every member of the village - the community - pitches in to mold how every child grows and learns. Why? Because those children will eventually grow up to be the elders, teachers, mentors, and leaders who help raise the next generation. No one is selling anything, everyone is involved, and everyone benefits.
In a similar light, it takes a community to sustain your brand. And when the community builds itself around the ideals of your brand, it becomes a tribe. These aren’t your customers, this isn’t your audience - these are members of your tribe.
Tribal members do whatever is necessary to protect the sanctity of what holds them together from one generation or evolution to the next. They help cultivate new members while shielding their ideals and virtues from the negative elements that might limit what they can do.
When done right, your brand’s community will guide you on where they want to go next.
For the most part, this doesn’t happen on Facebook. I don’t consider this a problem. For those who are aware of the power of their brand, the culture is an extension and practice of the community. You’re reinforcing your core values without having to hard sell your product. This is the safe place where you can express your authentic voice beyond the ego of your brand.
Your community, the tribe, should be born from and sustained by your brand’s core messaging. Forcing it to go any other direction isn’t going to do you any favors. There is much more to creating a community that goes beyond giving space to communicate with people. In this article, I’m going to dive deep on three points:
As always, before we dive into the concept, we need to remove the esoteric buzzwords that have been tied to it. Before we understand the HOW, we have to comprehend the WHO.
Community (n.) – a unified body of individuals with common interests scattered through a larger society.
Tribe (n.) – a social group composed of numerous families, clans, or generations having a shared ancestry or language
Combine community with core values and time; you will eventually find yourself with a tribe. The members of your tribe find each other, support each other, and build their own language and ways of doing things. Dedicated Peloton users find their tribe, as do fans of video game franchises or fraternal organizations. If you’re a part of them, there are things you just “get” that seem alien to everyone else.
Most “communities” people want you to join are an afterthought. They shouldn't be. Think of the mailing list or group you are added to AFTER you have bought into the main product - now you’re on another list to try to sell you more stuff. Brand communities need to serve the main pillar of the brand culture.
It’s not just “like and comment on this post!” after everything they do on Instagram or begging for reviews on Google or Facebook. Most social media followings may feel like a community, but they are open and public to anyone in the world. Best case scenario, your post gets lost in the noise. In the worst case, your post is scrutinized by someone who doesn’t understand your community language. Context is lost, words are twisted, and the following dwindles as your customers try to get away from you
Or this looks like the influencers who talk about being “shadow banned” or how their engagement is dropping. Shadowbans and engagement dips are not aspects of a community; they are concerns about visibility tied to a community they ultimately have no control over. If your social media accounts vanished tomorrow, would your “community” know what to do?
On the other end of the spectrum, you can find brands treating their communities like ATMs. Need to sell more merchandise? Push out a post, an email blast, or work the affiliate levers to see what happens. You can get an exceptional amount of business leads from a great community, but lead generation is a fraction of what your community could do for you.
If you only treat them like customers, they’ll never be members of your tribe.
As an exercise: imagine if your community didn’t have a home. Suppose you woke up tomorrow, and Facebook groups and email lists just vanished. Would your community, your tribe, know where to find you?
Would they know what to do to keep your core values at heart?
Or would they just feel abandoned?
Creating a sustainable, thriving, autonomous community means facilitating conversations around the primary problem your brand set out to solve.
This isn’t about signups or sales. Forget about engagement or follower counts. As a brand, starting a genuine culture-driven community begins with a dialog - so start it.
Dialog: an exchange.
Monologue: an open ended speech into the abyss.
In the Big BAM process, we spend a ton of time developing your brand culture for this exact reason. It is the very thing many brand managers and companies skip right over as they rush to sell a product. But when your culture drives the community, the community finds solutions to the problems you set out to solve.
The culture creates the community, and the community in turn, drives the culture. Before long, you have more than a community: you have a tribe. You have something that could very well exist without you, beyond you, and after you. A well-executed community gives your brand the kind of equity you will never see out of an email list or a social media following.
A culture-driven community can’t be accidentally deleted, banned for violating guidelines, or lost behind a forgotten password.
Communities grow brands; brands grow communities. It starts with you defining your community’s intention, which is very similar to your brand’s intention.
This leads me to the key elements to creating a community around the culture of your brand.
Are you brave enough to find out?