Community Building: How to Cultivate Connection with Authentic Content

Jessica Thiefels on Tuesday, August 4, 2020

community building

Community building is key if you want to nurture an audience that wants to buy from you. Community is the ultimate goal of your marketing because it turns one-time customers into advocates and clients into referrals. 

An essential tool to start building that community is content. 

Authentic brand content represents your business’s mission, values, and goals and it can’t be overlooked because authenticity is what modern consumers crave—yet it’s not always what they’re given. While 92 percent of marketers rate their content as authentic, 51 percent of consumers feel that less than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic, according to a Stackla report.  

No matter your customer or client, this authentic content is necessary for cultivating a community that wants to buy from you. The motivations and drivers for a B2B buyer are increasingly similar to that of a B2C consumer. Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report confirms this “blurred distinction between B2C and B2B standards of engagement.” 

Whether you’re a marketing coach or an enterprise-level SaaS company, authentic content is the key to building your community. Don’t ignore community-building any longer—find out how to create content that connects now. 

Get Your Brand Values Right 

Your brand values are the values your company lives by—and should be present in the messages you share and the way you connect and engage with your community. They align your core beliefs (I.E., what your company stands for) which then guide your brand story, messaging, behaviors, and actions. What’s more, brand values help define who you serve, and how that audience views your business. 

I love the way Erin Berman, founder of Blackbeard Studios, puts it: “Don’t deviate from your soul-level story, the component of your brand narrative that is emotional, aspirational, and will hit consumers in the gut. It’s that intrinsic, hard-to-point-to part of the narrative that drives your company.” 

That narrative is what drives connection. If one of your brand values is to empower women, others who feel passionately will connect with your brand over that similar value—but you have to infuse it into everything you do to make that connection. 

If you’re not sure what your brand values are, take a look at American Express’s brand values, which are outlined on their website:

Create for Humans 

Don’t let SEO override your authentic voice. Too often, content creators are focused on the strategic tactics of getting their blog post to rank on the first page of Google that they forget the audience they’re talking to. Content like this reads stiff and impersonal, which is impossible to connect with.  

Luckily, it’s easy to balance tactical content-creation methods with your company’s authentic voice. Here are a few tips for finding that balance:

  • Start with the content idea, then find the keyword that matches it. 
  • Don’t stuff the keyword; include it where it’s natural. If it’s not fitting naturally, you’re not writing close enough to the subject.
  • Include engaging elements for each piece of content. I.E. video, podcast embeds, video embeds, and links to related, helpful content. 
  • Ask your customers what they want to read about—they’re more inclined to connect if you’re actually writing on topics they care about.

The same idea goes for social media marketing. Don’t just post for the algorithm. Inject everything you share with personality and intention so your community can truly connect with you.

Use Customer Listening to Understand Their Language 

You cannot deliver the type of content your audience wants without listening to and understanding their needs. This is such a simple concept that brands get wrong time after time. Use surveys, polls and direct contact to get a feel for what your clients and customers want to read or learn about. When going through their responses, ask yourself: 

  • What language are they speaking? 
  • Which words come up again and again?
  • Are certain topics consistently talked about?
  • Which questions are they regularly asking?

With answers to these questions, you can:

  • Write content they care about. 
  • Respond to comments on social media using the words THEY use. 
  • Answer their questions before they ask them. 
  • Personalize the content.

Do Less Selling and More Value-Adding

Community building requires that you step away from the sales content and start bringing more value-based content to your audience. Give them something before asking them for anything to begin building rapport and the Like, Know, Trust factor

For example, look at LuluLemon’s Instagram and notice how all their posts are geared towards active individuals with work-out tips, videos, and general guidance. Browse through Officevibe’s blog, and you’ll find helpful articles with topical content for business leaders. 

Some other value-based content you can use for community-building include:

  • Videos, via social media or YouTube
  • Free downloads, like workbooks, ebooks, checklists, and templates
  • Live Q&As on Instagram or Facebook
  • Multi-day challenges, via email or social media

Test Different Content Mediums

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all blueprint for building community. To figure out what your community wants, you have to consistently be testing new content mediums. Experimentation allows you to test new social media features and evolve with your industry. Here are some examples of content types you can start testing:

  • Play with live video on social media.
  • Embed images in blog posts.
  • Insert videos in your email campaigns.
  • Test interactive elements on your website that create a participatory experience (think a spin the wheel inspiration message). 
  • Include reviews on your product or service page.  

The key with testing is tracking results. Set metrics ahead of time so you can know what was successful and what was not. For example, set a goal for live video viewers or click rate for your emails. After a few tests with your audience, go  back to the data—what worked, what didn’t  and what can you repeat or alter?

Create Space for Connection 

It’s your job to create a space that nurtures belonging among your community, while individually connecting with your audience. Luckily, there are many ways to create this space for your community online. All you have to do is choose the one that’s best for your audience. Some options to consider, include:

  • Facebook groups: A good friend of mine started a female entrepreneur Facebook group. What I love is  that she’s not actively plugging her coaching program or product. However, she is building a community of like-minded professionals. 
  • Messaging channels to drive feedback: Check out this guide to building a Slack community.
  • Twitter chats: Start a regular chart to garner meaningful dialogue.  
  • Subreddits: Reddit is an untapped gold-mine of insights, dive into relevant subreddits for your industry, or create your own. 

Once created, this space also gives you direct access to a community filled with your ideal customers and clients, where you can share advice and insights while getting feedback. There are few better ways to crowdsource new ideas that will resonate with your target audience!

Don’t Forget About User-Generated Content 

In our review-driven culture, user-generated content (UGC) is what consumers crave. Think: verified testimonials, referrals, or pictures of actual people using a product.

According to the same Stackla report, 79 percent of people say UGC impacts their purchasing decisions, and 90 percent say authenticity determines which brands they follow. Yet there’s a disconnect because marketers still believe that brand-created content is more authentic than user-generated. 

Image source: Stackla 

This is a challenge in the B2C space as well, with 92 percent of B2B buyers giving most credence to peer reviews and user-generated feedback. If you’re not sure how to leverage UGC, take a page from beauty brand Glossier. As a Quartz article explains: 

“Glossier’s social team regularly re-shares photos from its Instagram followers and replies to comments on the platform. Around 150 of the brand’s most active consumers chat online using Glossier-provided, city-specific Slack channels. There, they plan events and serve as an immediately accessible focus group for quick feedback on topics ranging from online features to product development.” 

Glossier built this ultra-engaged and loyal community through their authentic blog, Into the Gloss, which came long before they became a top-selling beauty brand. 

Leverage Authentic Brand Content to Cultivate Your Community 

Community building around your brand turns clients into advocates and customers into fans. It also allows you to directly connect with those you want to reach most. Using authentic brand content can help you bolster your community, while also growing your business—so don’t sleep on this critical piece of your brand-building efforts, whether you’re a B2B enterprise organization or an Etsy shop owner.